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The wonderful thing about the Road is that it will more than likely
please the two camps: the one that has not read Cormac McCarthy's
Pulitzer prize-winning book, and the one that has. There's the nervous
feeling one gets when watching the theatrical trailer, though - will it
be this super action-packed spectacle, will those images that open the
trailer with "THE END OF THE WORLD IS NEAR!" stick around, and will
Charlize Theron actually be in the movie that much? As it turns out, if
you liked the book very much and worried about how its uber-bleak and
incredibly dark and (especially) gray landscapes would appear, it
provides that perfectly. And if you haven't read the book... it still
works as a movie, as a simple-but-not story of a father and son
survival drama- and clinging on to their humanity- first, and then a
post-apocalypse thriller far second.
To describe the plot is not impossible but sort of unnecessary. All you need to know going in (if you're part of not-read-book camp) is that a father and son, after becoming on their own after the mother of the house exits, are traveling together across a true post-apocalypse landscape to a coast. We never are given a fully clear explanation as to why or how the apocalypse happened. This is more than fine; because John Hillcoat's film centers on the father and son (called in the credits simply Father and Son, played by Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee), there doesn't need to be anything really specific. At least this will be fine for most people who may be by now tired of the usual viral or religious or (damn) 2012-type explanations. We're given hints though, to be sure, that there may have been mutations or some kind of earth-bound phenomenon (earthquakes happen a couple of times), and past this we, like the travelers, are left to our own devices.
How it happened isn't as fascinating and visually compelling, anyway, than how it looks. The Road provides us many scenes and vistas that are precisely grim and desolate and terrible. Some of these are full of visual details like big city-scape shots, and others, like when the Father and Son are on the ramp of a highway, is intimate and hard (this setting also provides one of the most touching moments as Mortensen's character finally 'lets go' of two important details from the deceased mother of his son). And other times Hillcoat lets us just take in the gray-ness of everything, just as one could take in the sight of masses of flies in his film the Proposition. It's against this backdrop of rain and sludge and grime and decay that imbues this intense bond between the father and son so greatly, and the complexity that comes with not just staying alive but retaining humanity and dignity and doing right and wrong by the people they encounter.
This may not be news to people who read the book. I still, having read it two years ago (which sadly seems like long ago in usually remembering specific images of a book), can't get the descriptions of scenes out of my head, or the stark manner of how characters talked and dread and existential horror was relayed. But, again, the film not only respects this but gives it further life. Dialog scenes in the movie- save for a couple of the flashback scenes with Charlize Theron's Mother character- are never obtrusive to the storytelling, which is a rightful concern to have with an adaptation of the book. And, more importantly, the acting and chemistry between the two leads is incredible. Mortensen is a given to be an actor embedded in his character, so much so that when he takes off his shirt we see his bony torso as being really that, and watching him is magnetic. Yet it's also crucial to see how good the kid Smit-McPhee is too, especially when it comes time for scenes where the boy has to deal with his father's growing desperation or the electrifying showdown with a thief.
To be sure, a couple of walk-on roles by Guy Pearce as another fellow traveler and especially Robert Duvall as a "90 year old man" as his character says provide some needed space, and Hillcoat has a couple of very wise flashback/dream bits with The Man and his wife (namely a very small, brilliant moment at a piano), but it's the all on the two main character to lead the film, and it's on them that it delivers so strongly. As long as you know that this is a film centered not on big action sequences (though there are a couple), and not on big special effects (though there's that too), and it's more akin to a life-or-death-and-what-else story not unlike Grave of the Fireflies, you'll know what you're getting with the Road.
It is very depressing on the whole, and not exactly what I would recommend as a 'first-date' movie - unless you're so hot for Mortensen and/or Cormac McCarthy you don't care either way. However, it's *good* depressing, and equally the best adaptation of the book possible while a tremendous, original vision for the casual movie-goer.
While watching this movie I thought to myself that it was good I had
already read the book. This was because the movie is agonizingly
desperate and sad--often times it was just too much to absorb or handle
in such a large dose. You can't put this movie down like you can with
the book. Unlike the book being beautifully written, in an almost
poetic prose, which distracted the reader from the subject, the movie
is not beautifully shot. In your face is desperation, agony, and death.
I can understand why this movie was shelved for a year. Do not go into it looking to be entertained, at best look to be intellectually stimulated. This is no popcorn movie.
Just got back from seeing THE ROAD.
I had been very impressed by the novel and was concerned about how it would be adapted. The tone of the novel is almost unremittingly bleak and a 100% faithful adaptation would be very difficult to watch.
I'm happy to report that the film is very good indeed. It solves the problem of being unendurably depressing by concentrating on the emotional impact of the unspecified Armageddon, rather than the day to day fight for food, shelter and so on. So while at times it remains very upsetting it is shot through with hope rather than despair. I always felt the end of the novel was somewhat out of kilter with the rest of it but in the film it seems quite appropriate.
I think the film is more about the collapse of civility rather than civilization: for a film that shows the last remnants of mankind struggling to eke out an existence it is remarkably concerned with relationships. That's probably why the exact cause of the catastrophe is left blank: the film isn't really about the end of the world so much as the end of society. It's an interesting companion piece to NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN in which an ageing man sees nothing but horror in the modern world. In THE ROAD a man convinces himself, for the sake of his son, that humanity will abide even in the face of appalling conditions.
With a surplus of post-apocalyptic/disaster flicks present in today's
film circle, the Road does what very few films in any genre seem
capable of doing. Here is a picture that in it's own discreteness
captures the realism of a holocaust horror, combining the absolute
worst possible future with the most profoundly beautiful human
characteristics that keep the main characters persevering. Not only
does the story accurately exhibit the polar opposite aspects of a post
apocalyptic existence, but the cinematography used during the
flashbacks of a life full of color and hope many take for granted, is
excellently positioned with the dark, dismal, and often terrifying
reality that is the Road. The score was also fantastic and perfectly
appropriate for the film.
The only two, minor issues I had were the sound editing, (MINOR!) and the ending which was NOT at all a disappointment, but I felt it was quite open, without giving anything away. This is, again, a minor issue, for the story in itself was a journey, and we see only a small portion of the great, tragic, and ultimately fulfilling struggle.
And, though I'm sure no more attention is necessary, the acting as a whole was phenomenal. Each film since LOTR Viggo has greatly improved and I'd like to think of this as the beginning of his finest hour. Very few performances touch me emotionally, and his was certainly one of them, in three scenes in particular which were, being discrete, (the parting flashback, the dinner, and the climax.) Well done, the Road, thank you Mr. Mortenson.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
When my husband and I went to see this movie, we chose it purely
because a) it wasn't one of the ridiculous movies already out, and b)
it got a good rating on Rotten Tomatoes. At the snack counter, a poster
proclaimed, "One of the most uplifting and optimistic movies of the
After watching that movie, we concluded that the poster reviewer either was completely high, wandered into the wrong theater by mistake, or thinks that Schindler's List was a wacky comedy. The Road has to be one of the most depressing, pointless, excruciating movies you could ever see. It will make you want to go home and stick your head in the oven.
The first 7 hours of the movie contain an endless slog through a desolate landscape bereft of plant and animal life. Only bugs and humans remain, somehow. Everything else on Earth has been burnt or smashed by some unacknowledged Doomsday Event. The director leaves it up to the audience to somehow figure out what kind of reasonable scientific explanation could account for anyone surviving for any amount of time after all the oxygen-producing plant life plus everything else in the food chain between bugs and people bit the dust. Apparently it happens through the magic of Dole Pineapple Chunks, the search for which takes up another 4 hours of movie.
Once you get inured to this laugh riot, you eventually start to disassociate from the main characters. The Boy in the book is supposed to be 6 or 7. In the movie, though, he looks to be about 10 or 11, but seems to still act 6 or 7. He comes across as a total feeb and you start to wonder how a kid born on the cusp of a complete apocalypse manages to have such poor coping skills. The Kid was supposed to have been running into dead bodies and cannibals practically every day of his life so you'd think he'd be over it after 9-10 years, but no, he manages to seem traumatized at every instance.
Dad doesn't help things out much as he spends his days talking to the kid like he's three and tucking him in and carrying him around every chance he gets. I'm sure that'll help grow hair on his chest, Dad! It's nice to see that no matter how shitty the world gets, there's always a parent willing to overshelter their kid from the reality of their situation.
Dad also seems to make poor survival decisions. The poorest decision comes when the two find a friggin' BOMB SHELTER FILLED WITH FOOD AND WARM BEDS, but after a couple days they need to abandon it because they heard somebody walking around up top. Apparently this is the only bomb shelter in existence that didn't come with a lock on the hatch, and everyone knows how easy it is for a starving bum to breach a cement bunker with a steel trap door on it. It's much easier to pile a bunch of crap in an old push wagon and hit the road again to defend it in the open air against every marauder and sneak thief that walks by, while you slowly die from exposure.
But one can't point fingers at such glaring plot holes, because This Is Such A Serious, Award-Winning Oscar Contender! You can tell this movie is an Oscar contender because the kid cries real tears and there are at least a couple scenes where the audience gets treated to a rear view of Viggo's naked ass and nutsack. Everyone knows that if Viggo is letting you see his junk, he's very much into his role and you should respect his process by taking his nuts very seriously like he does.
There's a scene somewhere in the middle where The Mom (Charlize Theron) decides to end it by walking out into the freezing winter in her sleep shirt to die in the woods, because she can't take it anymore. By the end of the movie, you'll be wishing you'd walked out in the middle too.
There was one very uplifting part to our experience, though: After leaving the theater, my husband found a five dollar bill on the ground. That cheered us up immensely. There is life after this movie!
I just got home from seeing "The Road" and my stomach is still in a
knot. I never read the book and therefore won't be making any
comparisons. I'll simply comment on the film.
I can't imagine the performances being any better from any of the actors, starting at Viggo and working my way down to the smallest roles. I can't imagine the bleak post-apocalyptic world being portrayed any more realistically. I can't imagine the general feeling of sadness, desperation, hopelessness, terror and pain being captured more accurately. If that was the goal, the people involved in the making of this movie did their job magnificently.
Having said that, it isn't for everyone. I saw this movie alone because I had a feeling my wife wouldn't be into it. It's tough to watch. However, in the midst of this recession brought on by greed and materialism, I think it's a movie that everyone of age SHOULD see in order to put things back into perspective, if only for a day.
I had a lump in my throat through most of the movie and was desperate to get home and hug my two boys through most of it as well. I also felt like downsizing our entire life in terms of the unnecessary "stuff" we have. I imagined how many homeless people wander the streets right now with that feeling of hopelessness and desperation. What more could I ask from a Saturday afternoon at the theater? It's this kind of movie that helps maintain a degree of integrity in the film industry among the inaneness that surrounds it.
I read Cormac McCarthy's novel a few years ago & figured it would be
made into a movie (this was when "No Country for Old Men" was playing)
but I wondered how they could make this extremely grim tale into
something that people would want to see.
This film was every bit as grim as the novel and it seemed to be a faithful adaptation of it. The characters seemed more believable in the film than in the novel. This is probably due to the medium but Viggio Mortenson did a fabulous job as the Protagonist (the unnamed father) and his son was also great. They both were tremendous and brought a lot of character development and engagement to an otherwise totally bleak story.
I loved Robert Duvall's turn as the grizzled survivor. It was a supporting role sure to win an Oscar nomination. I think this will win more than its share of Oscar nominations, for Viggio at the very least.
Great film, go check it out.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I really have got to get used to reviewing adaptations of books,
because they come out all the time. But reviewing them is so much
different it almost doesn't seem fair. A movie like Watchmen would have
seemed completely different had I not read the book. It just changes
the playing field completely and usually not in a good way. However,
it's not going away anytime soon.
Let me start by saying how I came across the book "The Road", by Cormac McCarthy. It was about two years ago this time, and I was talking to my dorm parent about Children of Men, a movie that was so clearly well made and excellent, but I was left frustrated with it. Without giving too much away, Children of Men left me with no closure because the entire purpose of the movie seemed to be finding the cure, and the movie ends before they find it. In other words, it left too much unsaid, and for that, storyline alone, I gave it a 4/10. My dorm parent mentioned that if I didn't like Children of Men I probably wouldn't like The Road, because it gives you absolutely no information about what happened, it just tells you a story of a father and a son traveling in a post-apocalyptic world. Intrigued, and being a fan of Cormac McCarthy, I bought the book at the airport and on my way home for Thanksgiving, read the entire book. I really couldn't have imagined reading it any other way. Because the book has no chapters, and because it is so engaging, you have to read it in one sitting.
A movie was inevitable from such a great story, especially hot off of No Country For Old Men's success. And the road (haha) to this movie's release has been long and slow. It got delayed a whole year, which made me apprehensive as to how good a film it was. So as I entered the movie theater last night, almost two years to the date since I read the book, I was nervous. Would this be another I Am Legend? Or would this capture the greatness of the book?
The plot of the film and the movie are the same: a father and a son are some of the last remaining people on earth after an unexplained tragedy has happened. The two are just trying to survive, by heading south. Along the way they encounter many problems, but the heart of the story is in the relationship between the two characters, and the plot is minimal.
Director John Hillcoat's last film, The Proposition, was an attempt to revive the dead genre of the Western. And it was brilliant in so many ways, but I especially liked how the setting was displayed in the film. You can taste the nasty feeling of 1850 Australia in The Proposition. And that's why he's a great fit for The Road, because he brings us into a setting very well. And in The Road he does this again, maybe not as well, but considering he has no source material other than the novel, he does a very good job at conveying this dead world. I enjoyed seeing all of the eclectic images of destruction he brought to this film. Images from the Yellowstone fire, Mount Saint Helens, and Hurricane Katrina were compiled together to create this world, as well as some decent special effects. My favorite image from the film is when the go on an overpass. The overpass stuck with me.
The acting of the two leads is superb. Viggo Mortensen continues to impress me as a fantastic actor. When I was reading the book I imagined him as Djimon Hounsou, but Mortensen encompasses the character extremely well. Newcomer Kodi Smit-McPhee is just as good, and together they carry the entire film on their shoulders, and they do it effortlessly. My only complaint with the film is that because there is no driving plot, my guess is it could become tedious and hard to follow if you didn't read the book. Overall the fear and the relationship moved the story enough to keep me interested, but I can see how a lack of structure could be tedious to some.
The tone and art direction are spot on, the acting is excellent, the story is a perfect adaptation of the book, but it isn't a groundbreaking film. The Road is as good as adaptations get, one of the best I have ever seen. It wasn't a white-knuckle film the way No Country was, nor was it nearly as well directed. But, it's a riveting and engaging film, and it's a fantastic story of two characters. In the end, that's enough of a reason for it to be a great movie. As for my expectations: it blew me away. Despite a delay and a bad trailer, The Road is an impressive film. My Rating: 9/10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"It's not as good as the book." seems to be one of the most common
sentences in discussions about movies. I have certainly uttered it many
times. I try to judge a film on it's own merits as a separate art form,
but cannot help the comparison, especially when elements that I love in
a book are sacrificed in the translation to the screen (especially if I
felt the changes were made in service of some 2 hour "time limit"). I
can only remember one time that I thought a movie improved on a book
(The Godfather and the Godfather Part 2.) There are certainly many
times I felt that a mediocre book served as the basis for a mediocre
movie (The DaVinci Code). Cormac McCarthy's works have generally
translated well to the screen, especially No Country for Old Men. The
Road was one of the most wonderful books that I can remember - to
create a sense of hope against an overwhelmingly dismal
post-apocalyptic backdrop is no small feat. As I read it I found myself
sympathizing with the fears and frustrations for the man and, at the
same time, completely drawn into the innocence and wisdom of the boy. I
could not put the book down - I had to know the ending of this story.
As I sat watching the movie, I was right back in the book. John Hillcoat and Joe Penhall's collaboration made for a marvelous adaptation of this compelling story. Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee were outstanding. The film editing and art direction in this picture really contribute to the overall post-apocalyptic feel. The use of color in the otherwise gray backdrop was pure film-making genius. I was dragged to the height and depths of emotions and felt every anguish and small triumph experienced by the on-screen duo. In the end, I experienced both the triumph and the uncertainty of the human condition. And felt that I had seen a movie that was as good as the book.
By Zach Copeland "The Road" Takes Fresh Approach to Post-Apocalyptic
Genre Ever since God flooded out the entire human race in the early
pages of Genesis, literature has abounded with stories of the
apocalypse. For generation after generation, from The Book of
Revelations to The Stand, we have obsessed over the end of the world,
how it will come to pass, and what, if anything, we can do to stop it.
Now that humankind has reached a point where the End could conceivably
happen in an afternoon, our glimpses into this theoretical future are
all the more intriguing. And they've never been more important.
The Road, directed by John Hillcoat (The Proposition) and based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy (No Country For Old Men), is a dark, poignant story of a father and son journeying through a post-apocalyptic wasteland, withstanding harsh weather, malnutrition, and under the constant threat of marauders, thieves and cannibals. Their goal is simple: to carry on.
Those looking to sink their teeth into mindless disaster-porn (not that there's anything wrong with that) can get their fix elsewhere. The Road is a smaller, more penetrating film that draws strength from its intimacy and its ability to do so much with so little.
Viggo Mortensen gives an emotional tour de force as the embattled father; look for him on the red carpet come March. Watching children act is oftentimes painful for me, but I thought Kodi Smit-McPhee was impressive and genuine as the son, and takes on the task of being in literally every scene with rare fearlessness. Charlize Theron, Robert Duvall, and Guy Pearce give small but highly memorable performances, Duvall in particular, whose portrayal of a withered old man journeying all alone will haunt you.
The desolate environment in which the story takes place is itself a character, foreign yet eerily familiar, and so perfectly conceptualized that it matches heck, surpasses the standard of realism set by films such as 28 Days Later and Children of Men. Shot throughout four states, including at the site of the Mount St. Helens eruption, Hillcoat and cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe (The Others, The Sea Inside) paint a backdrop that is altogether beautiful and devastating.
They say that every generation since the dawn of man has feared the End, and while this may be true, not every generation has seen what our modern technology is capable of. The Road is a dark looking glass into our future, and what it is likely to become if our primal nature is left unchecked.
Early in the film, the son looks at his father and asks him, "We're the good guys, right?" The father's response is in the affirmative, but as their situation become increasingly desperate, that sense of morality we think to be ingrained is put to the test. Hillcoat does a masterful job of portraying human beings as what we are and always have been. He holds up a mirror to the world and hypnotizes you with it.
As far as post-apocalyptic movies go, The Road is hands-down one of the best ever made. Despite its raw, gritty facade, which will understandably be a turn-off for many theatergoers, the story underneath has a sense of serenity that everyone can relate to.
The Road opens everywhere on November 25. Need I say more? *The Film Crusade* www.filmcrusade.com/survive-and-advance/
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