CATEGORIES ReviewsLet's face facts, the post-apocalypse doesn't look much fun, does it? This certainly seems to be the case in director John Hillcoat's, The Road, adapted from Cormac McCarthy's Pulitzer prize-winning novel. Starring Viggo Mortensen, there's awards buzz surrounding the film, but does it deserve such acclaim.
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The Road (15)
Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Robert Duvall, Charlize Theron
Director: John Hillcoat
Film Length: 112 minutes
What¹s it all about? Cormac McCarthy¹s novels have had mixed fortunes in their translation to the big screen. Billy Bob Thornton had a bumpy ride wrestling with western All The Pretty Horses, although those privileged to see his original three-hour cut say it¹s much more powerful than the chopped-down version eventually released by the Harvey Weinstein-era Miramax. The Coen brothers¹ No Country For Old Men memorably cleaned up at the Oscars in 2008. Now director John Hillcoat (The Proposition) and screenwriter Joe Penhall (Enduring Love) take on McCarthy¹s most revered book of all. In a post-apocalyptic world, an unnamed man (Mortensen) and his son (Smit-McPhee) trudge through a desolate landscape searching for food, warmth and shelter.
What¹s good about it? Full credit to Hillcoat and his production team for their wide-screen visualisation of the dying planet, strewn with ash and charred vegetation. Especially if you haven¹t read The Road, the depiction of this bleak world where the only rule of law is the gun, and the weak are turned into sex slaves or eaten packs a powerful punch. McCarthy¹s vision of societal breakdown is entirely credible and quietly devastating.
What¹s not so good? In the book, McCarthy created tension with a forensic focus on the man and boy¹s possessions. The loss of a tarpaulin or a can of food was felt so keenly because you always knew exactly what they had and needed to survive. Hillcoat and Penhall didn¹t choose that route, which is fair enough, but they failed to provide an alternative that similarly grips in the moment. A much-contested voiceover the star, director, writer and backers disagreed about whether to have one sets a tone of overly deliberate ³poignance², as does the intrusive score.
So who¹s going to see it? Fans of the book will be curious, and everyone who intended to read it but never did will want to check it out. The Road lands smack in the middle of awards season, but so far isn¹t racking up the nominations that would help sell it to the upscale audience that last year saw, say, The Reader (£5.8m at UK box-office). In other words, it might well struggle.
Rating: 7 out of 10