Last night I watched an early screening of The Road (in theaters Nov. 25), and I am still reeling from its power. It is based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy (No Country for Old Men, All the Pretty Horses) and directed by John Hillcoat, who also directed The Proposition. If you haven’t seen The Proposition, you should rent it no later than immediately. With a screenplay by Nick Cave, it’s set in late 19th-century Australian backcountry and opens with an arresting officer freeing a prisoner under the condition that, unless he tracks and kills his older outlaw brother within nine days, his younger brother will be hung by the law. It is one of the best directed and most gripping films I’ve experienced in a very, very long time. And now I can say the same for The Road.
The Road is a post-apocalyptic story of a man (Viggo Mortensen) and his son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) heading south in an attempt to avoid the impending winter as they struggle against the deteriorating environment, gangs of brutal men, starvation, and their own haunting fears and memories.
In a culture that seems to use apocalypse-scenarios as vehicles for completely action flicks (Escape from New York, Terminator: Salvation) or as fodder for laughs ( Dr. Strangelove, Zombieland), The Road introduces realism. Every detail rings true, from the fleeting surge of electricity in a discovered bomb shelter to the makeshift braces and bandages taped across their bodies. Every interaction is meaningful. Every endeavor bears the burdensome weight of maintaining a dimming morality. Joe Penhall’s screenplay does not shy away from the atrocious, nor does it manipulate the audience for simple shock value.
For those diehard fans of the book, the trailer may have you wondering about the role of The Wife (Charlize Theron). Let me assure you, every liberty screenwriter Penhall took in this regard only works to deepen the connection I felt towards Mortensen’s character while adding highly dramatic moments I hadn’t imagined as I read the book.
As a member of the first generation born into a world bearing technologies capable of annihilating all of it in a moment’s notice, The Road is a story that needed be told and must be watched. It is simply a wake-up call to the fragility of our Earth. And by imagining a world stripped to its core, we see humanity stripped to its bare elements, as well. The Road shows us the worst in people, but ultimately, it is a film about our best. It is not only a story of the bonds between father and son, it is a story about the timeless responsibilities of a man and mankind.
Jordan Bonitatis (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Hulu’s Film Fanatic