Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Road (***)

The Road. 119 mins. R. Directed by John Hillcoat. Written by Joe Penhall. Starring Viggo Mortensen, Robert Duvall, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Guy Pearce, and Charlize Theron.

Having never read Cormac McCarthy's The Road, I was not sure what to expect of the film adaptation. The previews suggested a suspenseful thrill ride, but I knew that the final product would be more artful and meditative. Turns out, it's a little bit of both. As directed by John Hillcoat, The Road is a nearly great movie, full of haunting imagery (the amputees in the basement will not soon be forgotten), intense escape scenes, and a hovering sense of dread and menace. The characters in The Road could fall victim to cannibalistic hunters at any moment, and the audience feels that urgency and hopelessness at every turn. Viggo Mortensen is fantastic as the nameless father shepherding his son to survival in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. While not much happens in the way of plot, the movie often proves riveting and keeps its hooks in you. But around the time Robert Duvall shows up as a blind codger, The Road starts to lose its footing and peters out to a generally unsatisfying finale. In fact, given how dark and depressing the movie is for 2/3rds of its running time, and I mean that in a good way, the ending is almost too happy and hopeful. I won't spoil what happens, but in a movie where Viggo is prepared to kill his son in a moment's notice, you're prepared for the worst and that's not what you get. I wanted to come out of The Road emotionally devastated, not mildly satisfied by a movie that is great in parts but not as a whole.

- John


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