Friday, December 4, 2009

The Road

"Watch, as your world ends."

In the adaptation of the novel by Cormac McCarthy, a man and his son struggle to survive against the elements, starvation, and other scavengers in a wasteland that was the United States.

I admit that I am a man prone to flights of fancy, but I am not prone to accepting them as reality. I also tend to avoid, at all costs, making huge sweeping generalizations (though i think technically that may be one right there)- especially when it comes to movie reviews. So please keep all that in mind when I say what is coming next. In my world of post-apocalyptic movies there are now two categories: The category which contains The Road, and the category that contains everything else.
Truthfully I feel I could leave this review at that, but the movie was so good I just really want to keep talking about it.
It is hard not to begin with Viggo Mortensen when discussing all the reasons why this movie shines (and by shines I mean is coated in dirt and grime). This is the best performance I have ever seen out of him. That is no paltry praise coming from someone who had his jaw dropped by his performance in A History of Violence and then was floored by him in Eastern Promises.
He juggles the emotional tenderness of a mourning man, the endless wrath of a father protecting his son, and the broken spirit of a man who's lost nearly everything he holds dear with the kind of skill that convinces you it must be easy.
With Mortensen at it's forefront, we are shown -or rather forced to watch- just how ablative civility and morals can be in the face of survival. It is a film with a surprisingly large and emotional core. The physicality of it is undeniable and unapologetic (in one scene we watch our lead -billed simply as "man"- perform his own barbarous first aid) but it is the emotional presence throughout the movie which allows it to strike so hard at the watcher. Tender moments occur but do so without ceremony; in a world like that there is simply no time for pomp.
There is a sense of horror to The Road, but horror unlike that of the genre. It is not exerted by a latex monster, and it is more than just bodies left by zombies or an axe armed killer. It's horror comes from just how plausible it all seems. The characters are unnamed, and the disaster that brought civilization to a close is left unexplained. It is telling us that any of the the people in this movie could be any of us. That to those who might find themselves in this situation, pondering the cause easily looses out to thoughts like food and shelter.
If your going to go see this movie be prepared to be emotionally wounded by it. Amazed and satisfied, but wounded none the less. The Road is emotionally brutal, approaching it's substantial emotional content as it does all the rest- with no holds barred.

Reel Deal recommends:
Eastern Promises: Viggo Mortensen in another dark and affecting role.

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