The Road

By Sean Burns
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 14 | Posted Nov. 24, 2009

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Anyone who has read Cormac McCarthy’s chunk of devastation might be wondering if, for all the stylish and affecting prose, is there really a movie in there? After sitting through director John Hillcoat’s faithful adaptation of The Road, you’ll probably still be wondering.

Viggo Mortensen stars as our malnourished unnamed protagonist, leading his young son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) through a post-apocalyptic wasteland. True to the book, there is no explanation for what wiped out civilization.

Charlize Theron turns up for bracing flashbacks as Mortensen’s wife, debating the merits of survival in a world gone to hell. But for the most part, this is just the tale of a dying father and his little boy pushing a shopping cart through wreckage. And that’s a problem.

Finely written as McCarthy’s novel may have been, it was also a bit of a slog—loosely connected, deeply upsetting anecdotes with little in the way of forward momentum. On screen The Road suffers miserably from this structural deficit. Viggo and son are headed toward the shore for reasons that remain unclear. There’s no promise of hope at the end of their journey, just a direction to be followed. There’s nothing here to hang onto. It’s just a slow wander, waiting for bad shit to get worse.

Hillcoat, who helmed the vicious Aussie western The Proposition, has an eye for magnificently wrecked landscapes. There’s a grim authority to his vision that, thanks to weird release date timing, feels like a punishing hangover to the destructo-porn of 2012. It says a lot that the uncharacteristically maudlin score by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis doesn’t sink the film completely.

But as harsh and obscenely beautiful as these images may be, The Road seems to go on forever, feeling twice as long as its 119 minutes. C

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Comments 1 - 14 of 14
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1. Fuck you said... on May 25, 2010 at 10:20AM

“Fuck you lets see you make a better movie. You tiny cocked bastard”

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2. Anonymous said... on Jun 6, 2010 at 05:44PM

“Movie was too long and basically uninteresting.”

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3. Jim Bolo said... on Jun 19, 2010 at 01:45AM

“Let's see you make a better movie? That's the argument? So, if you took your car into a garage and they took it to pieces and you complained the engineers could say 'Fuck you, let's see you fix a car better!'? Idiot.”

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4. Anonymous said... on Sep 6, 2010 at 02:46PM

“Shut up you lousy assh. You look like a perverted smf.”

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5. Unaffiliated said... on Oct 20, 2010 at 06:43PM

“Gotta love these comments! Ah, only in Philly...”

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6. john said... on Oct 23, 2010 at 09:22PM

“to me this is a really good movie, probably one of my favorites, but why get so mad because someone else doesnt like it!!!!!!! you didnt make the movie, so it cant offend you”

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7. Kirsten said... on Oct 25, 2010 at 01:43PM

“The movie is a "slow wander, waiting for bad shit to get worse," but it is certainly not JUST that. The untrusting isolation of the man and the son from any other humans that they come across makes this film more about the relaitinoship between the father and son. If viewed as such, it is a truly moving piece of cinemetography. Open your heart and mind when you watch a movie, not just your eyes.”

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8. Bill said... on Nov 24, 2010 at 09:05PM

“If you had read the book youd realise that this movie was translated almost perfectly to this particular adadptation. By sh*tting on this movie, you're sh*tting on a highly accredited writer and a very deep, powerful story.

This is singularily the most powerful movie I've seen in decades. The imagery, dialogue, acting still lingers in the back of my head. This is not just some dark tale on the surface. Its the tale of a father and son who want nothing more to survive, share bleak moments of joy with each other, and display humanity at its best.”

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9. Gus said... on Dec 16, 2010 at 03:07AM

“This review is trying to assess this as entertainment. Not everything is independance day. This is life, survival is real for all of us and if we look under all the smiles it is about feeding off of each other. What do you think commerce is. When you feed off of the environment and all there is in the environment in a city are people, then you are feeding off of them. This is not so much slow as it is true. If you want to be entertained then go play a video game, this movie was about something important, what it is like to survive in a world where all you can survive from is human beings. This is my life and probably yours... I take it you have a job, and that job is given to you by a person, not natural resources.

Next time, say in your review, I have trouble seeing the truth ... before you write it, it makes it a more accurate review.”

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10. nobby smith said... on Jan 6, 2011 at 11:55AM

“You need to be a parent to really understand this film.”

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11. Nicky Peeps said... on Jan 8, 2011 at 02:51PM

“The fact that he was upset that there was no "forward momentum" couldn't be more telling as to how he completely missed the point of the story. He couldn't even possibly have understood the poignancy of how much the father loved his son if he didn't get how significant the pointlessness of their traveling is in the first place.”

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12. Anonymous said... on Apr 10, 2011 at 05:42PM

“Nicky Peeps is right. Sean Burns, you COMPLETELY missed the point of the ENTIRE movie. It must get old watching movies through your typical "critic glasses" huh? Maybe if you weren't so stubbornly set in your biases (it's obvious you didn't care much for the book, and are judging the movie partially on that) and your overly-stimulated entertainment starving brain, you could see that this movie is much deeper than you apparently have the incapacity to grasp. What would make this better, a healthy buff attractive lead, more explosions, sex scenes, guns, drugs, more cussing? YEAH! Now that's a movie!! God, open your mind to new perspectives. Horrible review.”

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13. Bubdylan said... on Sep 1, 2011 at 08:42PM

“C'mon, guys, Burns is a pretty solid reviewer. Not everyone has to agree. For example, I don't agree with him on this one. I'll never understand taking personally the panning of a film.”

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14. Kurt said... on Dec 11, 2011 at 01:24AM

“Excellent review - this movie really did seem long. With great relief I finally started hitting the fast forward, fully confident I wouldn't miss any interesting details.”


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