The Road (US, 2009)

Going nowhere

Dimension Films is one of the producers of this bleak movie, an unlikely source as the company was originally conceived as Miramax’s genre arm. While this is a genre film – science fiction – it is clearly not one that will have a large appeal. There are one or two Mad Max moments but mostly the film follows Cormac McCarthy’s novel fairly faithfully; that is to say, it’s grim. It’s not primarily a commercial movie, though of course was designed to make money, so what the film brings to the novel is a valid question as it hasn’t simply been made as a business deal. McCarthy’s book is a brilliant depiction of a post-Apocalyptic world where people commit suicide rather than live in such inhospitable surroundings. Most obviously, film can depict the environment which Hillcoat, and his designers, do with some brilliance. Even the CGI looks convincing as its unreal sheen works in this unreal world.

Most films require pacing to keep the audience interesting; when reading a novel if attention flags then the book can be put down. McCarthy’s novel had plenty of suspense throughout and these scenes work in the film very well to maintain interest. Less successful is the fleshing out of (if I remember correctly) the scenes with the Mother (the characters have archetypal names); though the colours of the pre-Apocalyptic world do contrast brilliantly with the grey morass of most of the film. I also don’t remember earthquakes in the book – added for drama? During the end credits we hear what sounds a bit like normal life; given that McCarthy offers some hope at the end then this was unnecessary.

The most disgusting human behaviour is missing from the film, which is probably a good thing as a visualisation of eating a baby is something I’m happy not to see.

There are potent cameos from Robert Duvall and Guy Pearce (he needs to be in more films) and, although I’m not recommending it as a Friday night movie, I am recommending as a film that reminds us to make the most of what we’ve got and to warn against where climate change may be taking us.

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3 Responses

  1. I really admired the film. I think Hillcoat and his screenwriter have done the very best anyone could have done with an almost unfilmable book. The performances are great especially from Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee who plays the Boy. The depiction of the world is sublime and the grey pallet the film has is remarkable. A film well worth seeing and a shame it hasn’t done better business

    The book does have an earthquake in it, although I believe it is only one at the beginning of the novel.

  2. […] with the odd splash of colour. I think I preferred it to the very similar, and more earnest, The Road. More off-putting was the religiosity of the film; the ending did make me feel a little squeamish. […]

  3. […] of how things might be. That’s quite an achievement and I’d rank this film above The Road as one of the best post-Apocalyptic films […]

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