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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

POSTER ART
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FILM DETAILS
Certificate
15
Cast
Viggo Mortensen
Kodi Smit-McPhee
Charlize Theron
Guy Pearce
Robert Duvall
Garret Dillahunt.
Directors
John Hillcoat.
Screenwriters
Joe Penhall.
Running Time
111 minutes

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The Road
Apocalypse sshh...


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Plot
Some years after an unspecified apocalypse which has killed all animal and plant life on Earth, a man (Mortensen) and his son (Smit-McPhee) trudge wearily through a devastated, lawless America, now overrun by gangs of redneck cannibals.


Review
The Road
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James Cameron had us nuked by robots. George Miller had us nuked by each other. George Romero attacked us with zombies. Roland Emmerich has lasered us, frozen us and, most recently, drowned us. Whatever the method employed to downsize humanity, apocalypse cinema is typically a spectacular exercise in cause and effect; in Emmerich’s case, lavishing too much energy on an expensive God’s-eye view of the former while barely bothering with the latter. You may not be shocked to find that John Hillcoat’s entry to the subgenre, a faithful adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s devastating novel The Road, is the polar opposite of Emmerich’s.

The cause is an irrelevance, visualised only in terms of its effect. A short scene has the unnamed protagonist (Viggo Mortensen) woken in the night by distant screams. He looks out of his window to see a flickering glow, then runs to fill his bath. “Why are you having a bath at this time?” queries his wife (Charlize Theron), blearily. “I’m not,” he replies. Being a man of impressive practicality and instinctive resourcefulness — the kind that populates the frontier of Western myth and invariably flounders in McCarthy’s rich fictions — he instantly recognises that reserves of water will prove crucial.

The world’s end is not, in Hillcoat’s hands, a nightmare intended to thrill. Not surprising, given his last unconventional Western was the brutal, fly-choked The Proposition. His apocalypse is one of brittle trees losing their death-grip on the ashen soil. It’s one of sudden brush-fires, smoke-choked skies and pitiless storms. Forget the brain-eating undead, now so tediously ubiquitous. In Hillcoat’s hands, nothing is as terrifying as the sallow, wild-eyed gangs who, to preserve their own survival, will hack down women and children without a second’s thought, or keep people alive, naked and shivering, in a pitch-dark basement — or rather, larder. It’s as if the Texas Chain Saw Massacre family has taken over the planet.

Yet The Road has taken some flack since its festival premiere, predictably given the book’s many passionate advocates. It is fair to say that the novel’s episodic nature has proven tough to translate. Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee seem to be forever cowering in undergrowth from rawboned hillbillies, while the string of recognisable-face cameos only accentuates how stretched the Man-and-Boy two-hander scenes can feel.

That doesn’t mean, though, that either of the lead performances is in any way weak. The one-time Aragorn, here looking more street-bum than Strider, has invested all his physical and emotional energy in making The Man convince and compel as a parent struggling to raise his child properly under unthinkably extreme circumstances.

Smit-McPhee, meanwhile, shivers with a vulnerability that similarly rings true. In a world so leeched of compassion, The Boy’s gentle innocence and desire to be a “good guy” lend him a sense of otherworldliness, honouring The Boy on McCarthy’s page. However stretched, these tender moments between father and son ache with emotion, and resonate as strongly as any of Hillcoat’s de-saturated visions of despair and terror.


Verdict
One of the most chillingly effective visions of the world’s end ever put on screen — and a heart-rending study of parenthood, to boot.


Reviewed by Dan Jolin

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for The Road
Empire Star Rating

RE: The Road

I watched this last night and to be honest I was a little dissapointed. As said in other posts the acting is fantastic, Mortenson and the kid are fantastic as are supporting players such as Duvall and Michael K Williams. It's also a strangely beautiful. However. it's just so fucking grim. There are no moments of levity at all. In the end I felt it was somehow less than the sum of it's parts..The pacing is a little uneven but that is forgivable and there is no plot to speak of really but ag... More

Posted by Keyser Sozzled at 12:45, 16 May 2010 | Report This Post


The Road

The Road is about as depressing as they come but the film is the book. Its a brilliant film as it is a book. The horror is horrific but their are moments of profound beauty. The film is frequently upsetting but it certainly offers the prospect of redemption. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Soprano168 at 11:34, 27 April 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Needs to be appreciated

Oh ok.* *And I hope your audience suffers greatly for the way they treated this film. ... More

Posted by Deviation at 19:35, 17 April 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Needs to be appreciated

Well I'm in Holland, where blockbusters are mostly released days before the US and Indie and Disney films a few months later... ... More

Posted by Jasper_29 at 16:06, 17 April 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Needs to be appreciated

L: Jasper_29 Something extroardinary happened while watching this film; from an audience of about twenty when the end credits rolled we were the only ones still watching, everyone else had walked out. he Road is still showing in cinemas? ... More

Posted by Deviation at 00:08, 17 April 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Needs to be appreciated

Something extroardinary happened while watching this film; from an audience of about twenty when the end credits rolled we were the only ones still watching, everyone else had walked out. Much about ds to be quality, from the custume and set design to some of the performances and a couple of very impressive visual effects. It's also one of those films where an hour in you have no idea what has to happen before it ends, because there isn't really a story to speak of. It consist mostly of a dozen... More

Posted by Jasper_29 at 23:12, 16 April 2010 | Report This Post


Needs to be appreciated

This is a film which you will watch once and never want to again. Don't take this the wrong way, though, beacuse The Road is actually a very good film. It's just that once you've seen it you understand all that it has to say and won't be tempted to give it another look. Joe Penhall's writing is amazingly effective and will have you thinking for days, while Hillcoat's efforts ultimately create an experience which will stay with you more than you will want it to. The acting is flawless. Both Vigg... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by djphilips at 12:40, 09 April 2010 | Report This Post


Extremely powerful and i cant believe Viggo wasn't nominated for an oscar for this. Every shred of pain and stress were there in his haunted eyes as he tried to keep it together for his son's sake. This movie was scary in places and a real tearjerker too at times. I think my poor girlfriend was expecting some kind of Mad Max-ish action movie and had been brought to tears at least twice by the end. And it' wasn't surprising, several times the movie punches you right in the guts, but like the main... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by strangeone at 16:40, 15 March 2010 | Report This Post


so well acted, viggo is really at the top of his game, how could the academy ignore this movie!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by anakin73 at 20:20, 07 March 2010 | Report This Post


RE: oh my god

I finally got round to watching this yesterday and I thought it was magnificent, as pared down as a film could possibily be but still hugely affecting. I loved that it was all about the small moments; the joy of tasting coke for the first time or the sadness the man felt when he saw the piano, these emotions rang true and I though the performances from both the man and boy were excellent.   Also I thought that the cellar scene, which only lasted a matter of seconds, was... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Perinthespider at 12:21, 28 February 2010 | Report This Post


RE: oh my god

its the 1st excellent film of the decade. to mention 2012 (although i quite liked it . . . stop laughing!) in the same breath is to do THE ROAD a diservice. powerful, emotional and belivable, this is a true front row, cinema lovers delight. cannot wait til Hillcotts masterpiece GHOSTS OF THE CIVIL DEAD is finally given a DVD debut, cos some c@%! borrowed my VHS copy and never returned it! ... More

Posted by empire No. 1 at 20:14, 21 February 2010 | Report This Post


The Road Worrier

Not quite as powerful as the book, but how could it be. The movie needed to be at least an hour longer to really recreate the horrendous conditions in the book and in doing so put us fully into that world. I thought the best parts of the movie were the little cameos by the other characters, each one brilliantly acted and realised. Biggest compliment to the movie is that the end pays off as much as it does in the book. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by SpiderBat at 11:17, 20 February 2010 | Report This Post


The Road Worrier

Not quite as powerful as the book, but how could it be. The movie needed to be at least an hour longer to really recreate the horrendous conditions in the book and in doing so put us fully into that world. I thought the best parts of the movie were the little cameos by the other characters, each one brilliantly acted and realised. Biggest compliment to the movie is that the end pays off as much as it does in the book. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by SpiderBat at 11:17, 20 February 2010 | Report This Post


RE: The Road

L: Drone I read the book some time ago, and just watched the film this evening - I have the same isue with the film as I do with the novel, but as it's a spoiler I will save it till last. I felt the world was slightly less 'emaciated' than it was portrayed in the book.  I was bleak, but not quite the barren ashland I had envisioned.  The pain and hunger of the man and boy didnt quite come across as well on screen, and the  man was a far stronger, amiable character than... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by genejoke at 17:57, 05 February 2010 | Report This Post


RE: brilliant!

It has to be said Viggo Mortensen was the absolute perfect choice to play the lead in this. Great casting. ... More

Posted by King Dave at 20:48, 04 February 2010 | Report This Post


RE: brilliant!

As dark, dreary and downbeat a movie as I've ever seen. But brilliant for it. Really a thinker. Found myself appreciating the hell outta life after viewing it.     Go see it guys. ... More

Posted by theburbs81 at 15:23, 04 February 2010 | Report This Post


RE: The Road

I read the book some time ago, and just watched the film this evening - I have the same isue with the film as I do with the novel, but as it's a spoiler I will save it till last. I felt the world was slightly less 'emaciated' than it was portrayed in the book.  I was bleak, but not quite the barren ashland I had envisioned.  The pain and hunger of the man and boy didnt quite come across as well on screen, and the  man was a far stronger, amiable character than on the page.&n... More

Posted by Drone at 22:50, 03 February 2010 | Report This Post


RE: The Road

I saw this yesterday and loved it. Brilliant in almost every aspect. A few minor quibbles though: Firstly the scene towards the end showing a mother and a child being pursued by the cannibals. They both looked immaculate! They did such a good job of making everyone else in the film look so haggered this really stood out and took me out of the scene. Secondly the end SPOILERS !! It has been a while since I read the book so this maybe my memory but I don't remember the child l... More

Posted by The Janitor at 12:43, 25 January 2010 | Report This Post


RE: BLEEECHHHH!!!!

L: ROTGUT Two hours of unmitigated misery!!! Sure.... it'll probably win tons of awards and it's well directed and acted - but is it entertainment??? I don't think so. Might I suggest that anyone thinking about seeing this blige - save your seven quid, stay at home - and watch the 6 o'clock news instead!!! It's just as depressing. ]insteadpinions like yours cause me unmitigated misery, they really do. ... More

Posted by Deviation at 19:36, 18 January 2010 | Report This Post


RE: BLEEECHHHH!!!!

I did not know anything about this film apart from having seen the trailer, have not read the book either just got back from seeing it a good film for sure 4/5 very subtle and atmospheric great acting very frightening concept of what could happen to the World found the ending where the "boy" meets new traveling companions quite emotional ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by hampstead bandit at 19:31, 18 January 2010 | Report This Post


RE: oh my god

The argument wasn't to show the father's viewpoint so much as the mother's - we're meant to wonder if maybe it really would be better to just die and that 'surviving isn't enough'. Neither the film nor the book ever pick a side. That's up to us. While the father's protection of his son is often portrayed as noble, it rarely shows their survival in such a desolate world as something to aspire to. I don't think we're encouraged to see the mother's suicide as selfish or unforgiveable. ... More

Posted by hatebox at 22:35, 14 January 2010 | Report This Post


RE: oh my god

But the argument between mother and father onscreen amounted to 45 seconds! How is that anywhere NEAR enough time to effectively communicate what the guy's viewpoint is? ... More

Posted by relativelyrelative at 22:28, 14 January 2010 | Report This Post


RE: oh my god

L: relativelyrelative So basically we're establishing that the father spent the best years of the child's life ingom a world he needed to develop survival skills for, and then when it was too late and found they to go on the road to head south the child was ill equipped and full of whimsy - don't you find that just a /i] bit monstrous that a father could conciously do that to a child in those circumstances? You're defending a film here that says that it's ok to still be innocent in a wor... More

Posted by hatebox at 15:31, 14 January 2010 | Report This Post


RE: oh my god

He also schooled him on the value of suicide which suggests, rightly or wrongly, that there’s no expectation that the travails of the post-apocalypse could be conquered outright.  Where also does the assumption come from that Mortensen’s character is a crack commando himself?  Beyond the fundamentals of “stay dry, eat when you can and stay away from the people who eat people” Mortensen’s survival skills didn’t really get more sophisticated than that.    The story is ben... More

Posted by demoncleaner at 15:22, 14 January 2010 | Report This Post


RE: oh my god

So basically we're establishing that the father spent the best years of the child's life ingom a world he needed to develop survival skills for, and then when it was too late and found they to go on the road to head south the child was ill equipped and full of whimsy - don't you find that just a /i] bit monstrous that a father could conciously do that to a child in those circumstances? You're defending a film here that says that it's ok to still be innocent in a world that's fallen to shit - w... More

Posted by relativelyrelative at 14:17, 14 January 2010 | Report This Post


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