Review: The Road (TIFF)
PLOT: In this adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's bestseller, Viggo Mortensen plays a father desperately trying to protect his young son (Kodi-Smit McPhee) in a post-apocalyptic future, where the barren landscape is roamed by gangs of predatory cannibals. His only line of defense, an old handgun with two bullets left.
REVIEW: I've been looking forward to THE ROAD for a long time now. Originally, it was supposed to come out last fall, but the film was delayed a year while director John Hilcoat (who's last film was the superb Australian western THE PROPOSITION), or producers Bob & Harvey Weinstein, tinkered with it. It was finally supposed to come out in a few weeks, but once again it's been delayed, this time until November. Time will tell if it finally comes out...
After being lucky enough to catch it at TIFF I can kinda see why The Weinstein Company may be waiting for the right moment, as it's a very challenging film. Even Viggo Mortensen, while introducing it, admitted it was a tough film to watch at times, and sure enough it is. However THE ROAD is one of those films that may seem a bit slow-going when you watch it, but after seeing it, you'll find it kicking around in your head for days. This has happened twice to me at TIFF this year, as the new Coen Bros., film, A SERIOUS MAN has also been on my mind quite a bit, even though I was sure I hated it while watching it.
That's not to say I didn't enjoy watching THE ROAD I did. I think it's a terrific film, brilliantly directed by Hilcoat, who I think will prove to be one of the most important directors to emerge over the last few years. Having not read the McCarthy book, I can't go on about how accurate it is, but the whole thing felt very organic to me, and I found myself pulled into this bleak, post-apocalyptic film right from the first frame. That may be the main reason why audiences probably won't embrace the film like they did with the last McCarthy adaptation NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN. It's a very unpleasant world to spend two hours in, and Hilcoat films it with a very detailed eye, never sparing the audience the unpleasantness of this post-apocalyptic universe. One particularly chilling scene, where Mortensen discovers a cellar full of still living people, gathered as food for the cannibalistic tribes that roam the landscape is extremely disturbing- even for a film-goer as jaded as myself.
Nonetheless, as unpleasant as it is, I feel it's an important film, as it does say something very important about how once must never lose sight of their own humanity, even when faced with the unthinkable. Mortensen is brilliant in what is essentially a two man show starring him, and McPhee. Over the course of the film, Mortensen's humanity begins slip away, as he becomes more and more focused on doing whatever he can to protect his child no matter the cost. In one gut wrenching scene, he pretty much sends another roving survivor to his death, after the starving man tries to steal their supplies. Only the kid manages to retain his humanity, and in a very difficult role, McPhee is excellent.
The film also has a couple of nice cameos, including Robert Duvall, as an old wanderer the pair encounter on the road, and Charlize Theron, in a smallish role as Mortensen's wife. I should also mention the excellent minimalist musical score but frequent Hilcoat collaborators, Nick Cave, and Warren Ellis.
I really hope audiences are going to be open to THE ROAD when it finally comes out, as it's a very important, challenging film, and hopefully it'll be sold accordingly, and not as MAD MAX meets Terrence Mallick. THE ROAD is a journey worth taking.
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