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March 22, 2010 | by  | in Film |
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The Road


The beauty and power of Cormac McCarthy’s novel The Road lies in its ability to let each individual reader create their own vision of a bleak, apocalyptic world. The short sentences, lack of punctuation and simple dialogue give readers an opportunity to create a vivid world through what McCarthy doesn’t describe, rather than what he does. Therefore an adaptation to film, a medium where the world needs to be shown in full to give any sense of realism, presents viewers with a singular vision of earth as an apocalyptic wasteland. Hillcoat’s vision is not the book. Not even close. No director could have done the book justice.

The film is still an interesting and valuable piece of cinema if one can stop comparing it to the book (this reviewer can’t). The film (like the book) follows The Man (Mortensen) and The Boy (McPhee), a father and son trying to stay alive and head towards the coast. Hillcoat’s depiction of the world gone to hell is beautiful, an achievement considering the entire movie plays out in various shades of grey. Images of a familiar world in disrepair and decay gave the film a slightly more harrowing quality than the book.

The bleakness of Viggo Mortensen’s face, his gaunt body and those sad, sad eyes are more ruinous than Hillcoat’s destroyed landscapes. Mortensen is perfect as a man who has elevated his son to a god-like status, the boy providing what little humanity the man has. This is Viggo’s film, although the structure does undercut his work. Kodi-Smit McPhee unfortunately brings none of the required growth or hope to his role of The Boy.

The final twenty minutes are the film’s undoing, with a badly paced series of scenes and a final encounter which comes off as comical, the literal presentation of it contains none of the hope of McCarthy’s prose. There is too much in The Road to really discuss in this review, but the added flashbacks should be mentioned, as they give revealing glimpses of the man’s past. The Road is a film worth seeing, but don’t expect the book.

The Road
Director: John Hillcoat
Cast: Viggo Mortenson, Kodi-Smit McPhee and Charlize Theron.

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