Surely, never has the bleak, woebegone, wretched aftermath of the apocalypse been so spell-binding.
The whiners may complain that The Road does not rise to the level of Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer Prize winning eponymous novel on which the movie is based (say, which movie ever lives up to the book) but don’t count us among the surprised if the movie comes up high among the Oscar contenders in the coming months.
Powered by solid performances by the lead pair and propelled by a novel story, The Road (directed by John Hillcoat) is one of the most fulfilling movies we’ve seen this quarter.
Plumped for The Road
Even after reaching New York City, we were in two minds yesterday: To watch The Road or see the new Clint Eastwood-directed, Morgan Freeman-starring film Invictus.
Finally, we decided on The Road because we had already read McCarthy’s fine book and since we like Viggo Mortensen more than Morgan Freeman.
So off we headed to AMC 25 in midtown Manhattan to watch The Road.
There were about 40 people for the 11:20AM show. Not bad for an early show on a cold Saturday (or maybe it was the lure of $6 tickets before 12PM). 😉
Essentially hewing to the story in the book, The Road is the moving account of a father (Viggo Mortensen) and his young son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) as they make their way south (to escape the harsh winter) in the aftermath of an unexplained apocalypse that has taken most life-forms with it including the larger part of the homo sapiens.
Bleak is the picture you see on the screen.
The trees are leafless, car wrecks are littered across the landscape, tis’ bitter cold but fires rage along the ridges above and there’s gray dust everywhere.
Must be the gray dust from the ashes of a great, devastating, all consuming fire.
Constant rain and rumbling earthquakes that shake the ground violently add to the grim ambience.
As the father explains in the early minutes of the film:
The clock stopped at 1:17. There was a long shear of bright light and a series of little concussions.
For the few human survivors left, survival is a hobbesian struggle since there’s little food left for the crops are all long gone.
And the road ahead is metaphorically and literally a hard struggle.
In these desperate times, cannibalism has reentered the edible vocabulary and whetted the appetites of the strong as the road is traversed by both refugees and vicious, armed gangs looking for food.
Such is the savage, forbidding terrain as father and son, in rags for clothing, slowly make their way south pushing along a supermarket shopping cart containing the duo’s meager possessions.
Keeping in tandem with the somber mood of the story, the picture we see on the screen is mostly of gray, white and black tones.
Of people hanging from the rafters or of skeletons on the beds from whose bones the father once pulls a rug for their use and matter of factly tells his son – Nothing that you haven’t seen before.
There’s very little color, except in the rare flashbacks.
Carry the Fire
It is also a story of a father with boundless love for his young son and a willingness to go to go to any extent to keep the boy safe as he teaches the young boy to survive the harsh days and urges him to ‘carry the fire.’
The movie moves along briskly without any jarring edges, either in the performance, story or the photography.
It’s that unfortunate soul who is asked the question – who did you like more in The Road – Viggo Mortensen or Kodi Smit-McPhee.
Both are an immense delight to watch.
This is a boy with lotsa promise. In scene after scene, Kodi stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the veteran Viggo.
Whether in a petrified state after his father blows the head of a would-be attacker splashing the bad man’s blood over his face or in his pensive moments or as he pleads with his father to take the other boy with them or in the encounter with the old man, Kodi is a delight to behold.
A rara avis, a seemingly naturally gifted actor.
In future, when we watch movies featuring children in strong roles Kodi will be the gold standard against which others will be measured.
Watching Viggo is to be in the presence of a master performer.
Whether crouched on the ground as he coughs helplessly spitting blood, as he prepares his son for the inevitable, as he protects his son from the elements and elements worse than the elements, or as he teaches his son how to kill himself by pulling the trigger, Viggo Mortensen defines the art form called acting.
Wouldn’t it be nice if one were to get the Best Actor Oscar and the other the Supporting Actor award. Hey, no harm in dreaming, right?
By the way, our tabulicious babe Charlize Theron has a small role in the film, appearing in flashback.
Before we leave you, here’s a nice encounter between the father-son and a very old man they meet on the road:
Father: Do you wish you were dead?
Old Man: It is foolish to ask for luxuries in times like this.
The Road is still in limited release in the U.S. and we have no clue when or if it’ll ever make its way to Indian shores.
But since when has a movie’s non-release status deterred the nimble-fingered Patels, Mudaliars, Singhs, Guptas and Reddys from misappropriating what’s not theirs. 😉
SearchIndia.com strongly recommends The Road.