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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: oh my god

The kid being too naive issue - I felt it was made very clear that up until they'd been forced to leave the house, he'd pretty much been confined to the relative comfort of that house and his parents' love all his life. He may have grown up in the apocalypse but his father had made sure he'd seen as little of it as possible. It's the same in the book - the kid reacts to all the horrors around him with.. well, the expected level of horror a human would have. ... More

Posted by hatebox at 10:30, 14 January 2010 | Report This Post


RE: oh my god

L: relativelyrelative L: demoncleaner L: relativelyrelative ....Are we all watching the same film? Because that's not what I saw; granted, I haven't read the book, but the film seems so ineffectively translated from page to script that it was nothing more than a jumbled mess. And that little shit was annoying as all hell. I'd like to think that the film's stately, considered pace is for the avoidance of all doubt that it is anything a mess.  In actual fact, it's s... More

Posted by demoncleaner at 09:53, 14 January 2010 | Report This Post


RE: oh my god

L: Deviation I get the impression that the book has much more of an impact than committing it to film did. his is probably true, reading the book I was really perplexed on how they were going to adapt it. I still have faith though, having one of my favorite directors at the helm and acted by some of my favorite actors. Plus Nick Cave is made of awesome. felt Viggo kind of sleepwalked through the role tbh. Robert Duvall for the five minutes he had onscreen? awesome. Just aweso... More

Posted by relativelyrelative at 00:19, 14 January 2010 | Report This Post


RE: oh my god

I get the impression that the book has much more of an impact than committing it to film did. his is probably true, reading the book I was really perplexed on how they were going to adapt it. I still have faith though, having one of my favorite directors at the helm and acted by some of my favorite actors. Plus Nick Cave is made of awesome. ... More

Posted by Deviation at 00:15, 14 January 2010 | Report This Post


RE: oh my god

L: krudler L: Deviation L: krudler I enjoyed it but as other people have pointed out, the kid is a whiny little shit considering he was born into a life of hardship, he wants to help people at the expense of their own safety and survival, where has he learnt these morals from? The father character has no problems screwing people over if they look at him funny and is all about their survival so its not from there, and his mother had zero faith in surviving as well so where did ... More

Posted by relativelyrelative at 00:13, 14 January 2010 | Report This Post


RE: oh my god

L: Rinc My biggest problem with the film, and it's a very good adaptation, is that it leaves out all the monotony of the book. In the book the Father is rightly obsessed with finding food, keeping the trolley going and looking after the tarpaulin and wheels of the trolley. There doesn't seem to be the same level of desperation and monotony in the film and also the Father is far less careful in it. In the book he is constantly worried about being sighted, maing noise and approaching any ho... More

Posted by relativelyrelative at 00:11, 14 January 2010 | Report This Post


RE: oh my god

L: Deviation L: krudler I enjoyed it but as other people have pointed out, the kid is a whiny little shit considering he was born into a life of hardship, he wants to help people at the expense of their own safety and survival, where has he learnt these morals from? The father character has no problems screwing people over if they look at him funny and is all about their survival so its not from there, and his mother had zero faith in surviving as well so where did the kid get the s... More

Posted by krudler at 00:11, 14 January 2010 | Report This Post


RE: oh my god

L: Deviation L: relativelyrelative L: Deviation L: krudler I enjoyed it but as other people have pointed out, the kid is a whiny little shit considering he was born into a life of hardship, he wants to help people at the expense of their own safety and survival, where has he learnt these morals from? The father character has no problems screwing people over if they look at him funny and is all about their survival so its not from there, and his mother had zero faith in s... More

Posted by relativelyrelative at 00:10, 14 January 2010 | Report This Post


RE: oh my god

My biggest problem with the film, and it's a very good adaptation, is that it leaves out all the monotony of the book. In the book the Father is rightly obsessed with finding food, keeping the trolley going and looking after the tarpaulin and wheels of the trolley. There doesn't seem to be the same level of desperation and monotony in the film and also the Father is far less careful in it. In the book he is constantly worried about being sighted, maing noise and approaching any house. ... More

Posted by Rinc at 00:10, 14 January 2010 | Report This Post


RE: oh my god

L: relativelyrelative L: Deviation L: krudler I enjoyed it but as other people have pointed out, the kid is a whiny little shit considering he was born into a life of hardship, he wants to help people at the expense of their own safety and survival, where has he learnt these morals from? The father character has no problems screwing people over if they look at him funny and is all about their survival so its not from there, and his mother had zero faith in surviving as well so... More

Posted by Deviation at 00:02, 14 January 2010 | Report This Post


RE: oh my god

L: demoncleaner L: relativelyrelative ....Are we all watching the same film? Because that's not what I saw; granted, I haven't read the book, but the film seems so ineffectively translated from page to script that it was nothing more than a jumbled mess. And that little shit was annoying as all hell. I'd like to think that the film's stately, considered pace is for the avoidance of all doubt that it is anything a mess.  In actual fact, it's so above-board and bereft o... More

Posted by relativelyrelative at 23:01, 13 January 2010 | Report This Post


RE: oh my god

L: Deviation L: krudler I enjoyed it but as other people have pointed out, the kid is a whiny little shit considering he was born into a life of hardship, he wants to help people at the expense of their own safety and survival, where has he learnt these morals from? The father character has no problems screwing people over if they look at him funny and is all about their survival so its not from there, and his mother had zero faith in surviving as well so where did the kid get the s... More

Posted by relativelyrelative at 22:53, 13 January 2010 | Report This Post


RE: oh my god

L: krudler I enjoyed it but as other people have pointed out, the kid is a whiny little shit considering he was born into a life of hardship, he wants to help people at the expense of their own safety and survival, where has he learnt these morals from? The father character has no problems screwing people over if they look at him funny and is all about their survival so its not from there, and his mother had zero faith in surviving as well so where did the kid get the sudden urge to help ... More

Posted by Deviation at 21:38, 13 January 2010 | Report This Post


RE: oh my god

I enjoyed it but as other people have pointed out, the kid is a whiny little shit considering he was born into a life of hardship, he wants to help people at the expense of their own safety and survival, where has he learnt these morals from? The father character has no problems screwing people over if they look at him funny and is all about their survival so its not from there, and his mother had zero faith in surviving as well so where did the kid get the sudden urge to help everyone else? ... More

Posted by krudler at 18:27, 13 January 2010 | Report This Post


RE: oh my god

!!!!!!!!!!SPOILER!!!!!!!!! OH YEAH! one other major problem. the first scene (i think) shows the mother pregnant and the troubles are clearly already upon them. 10 years later and the boy has obviously grown up through this whole mad event...why the HELL is he not more hard by the point we join them in the story. he looks at dead bodies like they are something new which they clearly wouldnt have been by that stage in his life. its so utterly unbelieva... More

Posted by boove at 17:58, 13 January 2010 | Report This Post


RE: oh my god

L: relativelyrelative ....Are we all watching the same film? Because that's not what I saw; granted, I haven't read the book, but the film seems so ineffectively translated from page to script that it was nothing more than a jumbled mess. And that little shit was annoying as all hell. you are not alone!! !!!!!!!!!SPOILERS!!!!!!!!!! i went with my girlfriend and my friend and we all thought it was rubbish (my friend and i often have differing opinions ... More

Posted by boove at 17:52, 13 January 2010 | Report This Post


RE: oh my god

L: relativelyrelative ....Are we all watching the same film? Because that's not what I saw; granted, I haven't read the book, but the film seems so ineffectively translated from page to script that it was nothing more than a jumbled mess. And that little shit was annoying as all hell. I’d like to think that the film’s stately, considered pace is for the avoidance of all doubt that it is anything a mess.    In actual fact, it’s so above-board and bereft of trickery that ... More

Posted by demoncleaner at 12:04, 13 January 2010 | Report This Post


RE: oh my god

L: relativelyrelative ....Are we all watching the same film? Because that's not what I saw; granted, I haven't read the book, but the film seems so ineffectively translated from page to script that it was nothing more than a jumbled mess. And that little shit was annoying as all hell. ell I have read the book and while I loved the story I despised the writing. I always felt it'd make a fantastic film and for me that's exactly what it was. Not a day brightener by any means but very ef... More

Posted by sephiroth7 at 11:54, 13 January 2010 | Report This Post


RE: oh my god

....Are we all watching the same film? Because that's not what I saw; granted, I haven't read the book, but the film seems so ineffectively translated from page to script that it was nothing more than a jumbled mess. And that little shit was annoying as all hell. ... More

Posted by relativelyrelative at 11:02, 13 January 2010 | Report This Post


RE: The Road

  Very impressive and highly effecting film. This one I'm sure will stay with me for some time. It's not just the premise of cataclysm in the world that's arresting but the verite portrayal of bare subsistence that had my moral barometer in a tiz. The Road may evoke guilty consideration of contemporary homelessness, or a resurgent threat of an economic apocalypse a la the Great Depression. The fact that the "Event” is unspecified offers a disconcerting catalogue of reason for why humanit... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by demoncleaner at 00:16, 13 January 2010 | Report This Post


RE: The Road

I thought it was stunning.  I loved the book and this is as good as an adaptation as I could have hoped for.  The cinematography and production design were flawless and the acting was absolutely first rate. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Rob at 16:32, 11 January 2010 | Report This Post


RE: The Road

L: tftrman L: David Somerset the rest of dtly two hours of unswervingly bleak grimness and desperation, which isn't what I was after on my day off. If I'd wanted unswervingly bleak grimness and desperation I'd have gone into work. Boom boom! I take it you haven't read the book? I've yet to see the film but I can't imagine it scales the same levels of bleakness as the book. Got to try and get to the cinema this week to watch this. 't worry, it doesn't. A couple of the more disturbing... More

Posted by Jackie Boy at 15:52, 11 January 2010 | Report This Post


RE: The Road

rial]Good Film, solid performances by Mortensen and the kid Smit-McPhee but damn, it's depressing! I like the ol' post-apocalyptic films but this was grim! BOOK OF ELI seems more my cuppa tea.r] ... More

Posted by Snake-Eyes at 15:06, 11 January 2010 | Report This Post


RE: The Road

L: David Somerset the rest of dtly two hours of unswervingly bleak grimness and desperation, which isn't what I was after on my day off. If I'd wanted unswervingly bleak grimness and desperation I'd have gone into work. Boom boom! sp; I take it you haven't read the book? I've yet to see the film but I can't imagine it scales the same levels of bleakness as the book. Got to try and get to the cinema this week to watch this. ... More

Posted by tftrman at 12:42, 11 January 2010 | Report This Post


RE: The Road

dth seeing to watch a true legend at the peak of his mighty powers. Viggo Mortensen is so convincing in all his roles that I genuinely believe he has, during his life, actually been chief weapons officer on a submarine, an American hitman, a Russian hitman, a German literature professor, a mythological warrior king and a post-apocalyptic survivor with a soft spot for shopping trolleys and an aversion to razors. the rest of dtly two hours of unswervingly bleak grimness and desperation, ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by David Somerset at 09:38, 11 January 2010 | Report This Post


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