The Road


Director: John Hillcoat.
Screenplay: Joe Penhall.
Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Charlize Theron, Robert Duvall, Guy Pearce, Michael Kenneth Williams, Garret Dillahunt, Molly Parker, Bob Jennings, Agnes Herrmann, Buddy Sosthand, Kirk Brown, Jack Erdie.

“When you dream about bad things happening, it means you’re still fighting and you’re still alive. It’s when you start to dream about good things that you should start to worry”

I’ll always remember the experience I had reading Cormac McCarthy’s 2006 novel The Road. It wasn’t something I was initially drawn to but the fact that a film adaptation was in the pipeline led me to investigate further. It was a very bleak and emotionally shattering read but it was also morbidly fascinating and nigh-on impossible to put down. When I came to the end I remember wondering how this could be visually translated to the screen considering it delivered so little in terms of descriptive prose. Credit then to Australian director John Hillcoat for delivering a faithful recreation of a very intimate novel.
An unspecified apocalypse devastates all animal and plant life on Earth, leaving those remaining in a state of lawlessness and cannibalism. A man (Viggo Mortensen) and his son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) are left to survive, by any means necessary, in the hope that salvation lies ahead somewhere along the road.The sheer power of McCarthy’s novel led it quickly to become a beloved piece of literature and anyone willing to attempt an adaptation was always going to have an unenviable task. With this in mind, it seemed fitting that John Hillcoat would follow-up the stark and primitive The Proposition with another realistic survival tale. In fairness, the emotional power of the book is somewhat diluted but this can so often be the case with page to screen transfers. For the most part, though, Hillcoat manages to capture the essence of the story and his visual representation is practically spot-on for how it was depicted in my mind when reading the book. In achieving this, it would be unfair not to single out the exemplary work of Javier Aguirresarobe and his fittingly, desaturated cinematography as well as keeping the CGI to a minimum which makes the stark images and locations all the more impressive and effective.Make no mistake, The Road is an arduous journey with a palpable sense of doom. As a result, this led to my first impressions of the film not being entirely positive. It felt to me like I was trudging through it, like the characters are wearily trudging through the harsh and barren landscape. However, on a recent reappraisal it strikes me just how powerful a film it is. A bold move (like the book before it) is never to explain the circumstances of the apocalyptic event. It’s irrelevant. Instead we’re thrust into a society whose fragility has been exposed to it’s weakest point with man’s inhumanity to man now the biggest threat to anyone’s survival.At it’s core the film is galvanised by two very strong central performances. Sure, there are brief, but welcome, appearances from the great Robert Duvall, the always reliable Charlize Theron and the vastly underrated Guy Pearce but, ultimately, the film rests upon the shoulders of Kodi Smit-McPhee and Viggo Mortensen, who both deliver emotionally harrowing work. Their father/son relationship captures the moments of despair and desperation while complimenting these with a tender and heart-rending vulnerability.With the exception of the Coen brothers’ Oscar winning No Country For Old Men, Cormac McCarthy’s prose have proven difficult for some filmmakers but John Hillcoat manages to bring a faithful adaptation to the screen that’s, ironically, both bleak and beautiful.Mark Walker

Trivia: To live the role, Viggo Mortensen would sleep in his clothes and deliberately starve himself. At one point he was thrown out of a shop in Pittsburgh because they thought he was a homeless man.

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43 Responses to “The Road”

  1. I still haven’t seen it. I have however read the book and I thought it was amazing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s worth a watch, man. I thought the book was amazing too. This doesn’t quite grab the same way the book did but how many films do, really? When I first seen the film I wasn’t all that fussed about it but a recent revisit really worked a treat.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I think this still counts as the most depressing film I have ever seen.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I was just going to watch this! Too funny. Cormac McCarthy has interesting books and film adaptations–it so happens he’s one I’m featuring next month for the Lucky 13 Film Club. I appreciate the review. You always do nice work, Mark.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I loved this movie and the book. I have quite a thing for dystopias. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m a fan of dystopian stories as well, Ashley and McCarthy’s is one of the best. The film’s great but the book the book is simply a piece of literary class.

      Like

  5. Nice review Mark. Despite The Road being one of my all-time favorite books, I’ve never gotten around to seeing the movie adaptation. Better get around to checking it out.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Wonderful review, I felt so drained after watching this film due to how powerful it was.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Yeah I know what you mean about trudging through it; I’ve only seen it the once but that’s how I felt at the time. I’d definitely watch it again sometime, though, as like you I appreciated the performances and thought the production design was really good. It’s just as bleak as the novel, and I think you can see its influence on TV shows like The Walking Dead or even videogames like The Last Of Us.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I wasn’t overly enamoured when I first seen it, Stu. It was a lot stronger on a second viewing, though. I found that I was more prepared for it.

      Bingo! Spot on about its influences of The Walking Dead and The Last of Us. In fact, it’s because I’m a big fan of those that I was drawn to seeing The Road again. I got hold of it after recently finishing The Last of Us – which has to be one of the best games I’ve ever played.

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      • I’m in the middle of it now, although haven’t had much time to play recently. Very good so far!

        Liked by 1 person

      • It’s a fabulous game. I started it ages and stop about halfway, through as I only have the sporadic notion for games. Once I finished it, though, I was totally blown away. It’s superb.

        Like

  8. You’ve just made me realize I forgot this one.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Great read. I never read the book but I do believe I have the e-book on my tablet. I love Viggo, and when I saw this I went in knowing nothing at all. Needless to say I was blown away, so bleak, so emotional, it is everything I love in a film. Plus Nick Cave did the OST! I think he did anyways… he did for other Hillcoat films.

    What you’ve said about the cinematography has made we want to revist this ASAP. I’d be a cinematographer if this shit-hole town had a film school, so I’m left with just my photography (would love to hear your thoughts on my recent photos!) and watching films always watching with the mindset of being a cinematographer.

    I hope that made sense, sorry for the long reply! I’m thinking…. its been ages since I saw the movie, so i would have forgotten most of it…. do you reckon I should go for the book before watching it again?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Viggo is the man isn’t he? Yeah, Hillcoat does a great job here. If truth be told, I didn’t initially thinks so. My first viewing of this didn’t go down all that well but that was years ago. A recent revisit has changed my mind. I loved it. The cinematography is quite stunning and I’d be more than happy to check out your photos (you on Facebook or Twitter at all?).

      If recommend a revisit, man but if you haven’t read the book, I’d go for that first. Such a good read.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah I’ll go for the book, its been many years since I saw it. And I love Viggo, he can do anything. A certain accent of French? No worries! 5 or 6 languages he speaks, insane. He is also a photographer too I believe

        search Jordan Dodd on facebook, the one with my dog looking up at the camera is me. I use it occasionally. twitter is @epileptimaniak 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Viggo’s great isn’t he. Always been a big fan of his. I do believe he is a photographer. I remember seeing some of his stuff a while back.

        I’ll look you up on Facebook and Twitter bud. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • He is also a poet, at least I think I read that in a magazine somewhere. He is the awesome 😀

        See ya on facebook mate!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah, I heard he was a poet too but never read any of his stuff. I should check that out. I’ll always remember seeing Viggo is Sean Penn’s directorial debut The Indian Runner in 1991. From that moment on I was a huge admirer. In fact, I still don’t think he’s given the credit he’s due.

        Just realised I was already following you on Twitter but sent a request for Facebook mate. You will notice I go by my Gaelic name on Facebook in case you’re wondering who the guy with the weird name is. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      • hehe no worries.

        I have never seen that movie, I must get more of Viggos stuff to watch, he is awesome in everything he does. I don’t think he gets the credit he deserves either. And its cos he goes for obscure films like Jauja instead of franchise/supershit movies

        Liked by 1 person

      • That’s exactly it. He’s one of the few actors who has retained his integrity and not been tempted by the paycheck. I always admire that.

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      • For sure. A true artist.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Though he did do LOTR I think….

        Liked by 1 person

      • Haha! He did. And he was perfect as Aragorn but he could have banked on that role and became a proper leading man. He seems to have chosen not to and I like that.

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      • I haven’t seen the movies but i’m sure he was perfect. I also like that he hasn’t continued that trend when it would seem he really could have

        Liked by 1 person

  10. I really, really need to get to this, and I have been saying I will for years. Great review, Mark!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Great Review! “The Road” is one of my favorite books and “The Proposition” is one of my favorite movies, so I was super excited to see this when it came out. I think my sky-high expectations dampened the experience for me a little. Hillcoat captures the look and feel of the book almost perfectly, but there’s an ethereal, philosophical edge to the book that I feel like he struggles with. In hindsight, it makes me wish that they had either cut out all of the voiceovers and done a bones-dry, Haneke-eske, adaptation or turned the lyricism up to eleven with a Tarkovsky or Lynne Ramsay style. Instead, they try to have it both ways and the film felt a little uneven to me with it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My expectations of this were very high as well, Brent. I adore the book and when I first seen Hillcoat’s take on it, I felt underwhelmed. It was little more than a 3 star film. However, I recently rewatched it and it was a lot stronger than I remembered. I think it pays to allow the anticipation or expectation to subside and revisit it.

      Love the idea of a Haneke or Tarkovsky take on it, though. That could definitely work.

      Thanks for dropping, man!

      Like

  12. Saw this at the cinema and it was so bleak. It was beautifully shot and acted though.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. […] his relentlessly grim debut The Proposition and it’s equally grim follow-up, The Road, director John Hillcoat carved a reputation as a less than cheery filmmaker. However, he was […]

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