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
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