The Road (2009)
In this atmospheric post-apocalyptic drama, Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee play a father and son who wander with weary determination along an undefined road, headed for the ocean. The world they find themselves in is colourless and inanimate, populated only by roving cannibalistic gangs and a handful of other wanderers like themselves. Animal and plant life is extinct, and there seems to be little other purpose than to just stay alive. The vague goal the father has set for the two may or may not give them some kind of redemption.
The Road is based on Cormac McCarthy's Pulitzer Prize winning novel of the same name, and as adapted by John Hillcoat, the film retains a largely literary style. Mood and imagery take precedence over narrative and explanation, and The Road thus appeals more to our emotions than our intellect. The lyrical, almost meditative style adopted by Hillcoat is alluring, and the almost unnarrative form arguably elevates the film's best asset: the portrayal of the close relationship between a father and a son in dire conditions. Mortensen and Smit-McPhee share some wonderful moments together as they slowly descend in their downward spiral - only interrupted occasionally by a glimpse of hope.
Despite the fact that the film is effective in what it tries to do, I suspect most viewers will be left wanting more - especially viewers with an inquisitive nature. The conscious lack of information concerning what the world has gone through is probably not as testing in the novel as it is here - especially since the imagery is somewhat lacking; it is not as rich and descriptive as one could hope. With that said, Hillcoat creates harrowing moments of despair and distress, and the interpersonal situations are handled and executed in a far more realistic manner than it is in most post-apocalyptic tales. Two effective such occur when the man and the boy meet an old man and a desperate thief, respectively. Robert Duvall and Michael K. Williams both seem to really have gone through what their characters have in a couple of brilliant cameo parts. A big nod also to Charlize Theron whose performance in a handful of flashbacks is powerful. More powerful, as it turns out, than Hillcoat's conclusion, which come off as a tad abrupt and ineffective.