The Road Review – Bleak Charmer

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). πŸ˜‰

Faithful Tale

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.

Viggo, we are familiar with from Eastern Promises and Appaloosa but the 13-year-old Kodi is new to us.

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. πŸ˜‰ strongly recommends The Road.

12 Responses to "The Road Review – Bleak Charmer"

  1. Jyoti Ramakrishnan   December 13, 2009 at 8:51 pm

    Another great movie by Viggo is History of Violence. Responds:


    Just added A History of Violence to our Netflix queue and moved it to the top.

  2. the gora   December 14, 2009 at 2:18 am

    Invictus was average. I was not terribly impressed. The acting was mediocre, but they didn’t have much to work with as the writing seemed particularly uninspiring. Responds:

    1. You write: Invictus was average….the writing seemed particularly uninspiring.

    Too bad.

    According to the folks at Wiki, the Screenplay is by Anthony Peckham based on the Book by John Carlin.

    2. You should’ve watched The Road. It’s playing in your state too (hopefully not far from where you are).

  3. mihi_rex   December 14, 2009 at 3:39 am

    I plan to watch The Road next week.

    By watching just the trailer, I was impressed by Viggo, but then I can hardly think of times when his acting was “bad.”

    BTW, I went to a matinee show of Invictus last thursday and was impressed. I was first impressed with the cost of the show πŸ˜‰ and also the movie. Some of the pros were, Clint Eastwood’s strong screenplay, Morgan Freeman’s inspiring performance, and the movie’s uplifting soundtrack.

    Whether its Million Dollar Baby, Gran Torino, or the newly released Invictus, Clint Eastwood proves himself to be an amazing screen writer!!

    You should try to watch this movie!…..perhaps a matinee show πŸ˜‰ Responds:

    1. Will most likely watch Invictus in a few days.

    Matinees are just $6 here. πŸ˜‰

    2. BTW, the book (i.e. Cormac McCarthy’s The Road) is nice too. Your county library should have it.

  4. Vetti Jijaji   December 14, 2009 at 10:54 am

    Avatar has a perfect 100% from the 6 RT “Top Critics” so far. And 91% from “T-meter Critics”.. will you be watching the first show? Responds:

    1. You write: will you be watching the first show?

    Dunno yet because we also have Velaikaran or Samayalkaran or Pichchakaran or Wateva-karan releasing the same day. πŸ˜‰

    BTW, there’s a $3.50 difference in the ticket price between Avatar 3D (higher ticket price) and Avatar regular for the Thursday midnight shows.

    Expect to pay around $14 for Avatar 3D if you plan on watching the Thur midnight show.

    U.S. Readers: Yes, yes we know y’all are cheapo desis. But for once, it might be advisable to book ahead for Avatar 3D via Fandango or MovieTickets sites if you are planning on watching the 12:01 midnight show. Worth the $1 ticket fee rather than returning disappointed.

    2. The AP review we read a few days back on the iPhone was not that flattering.

    Will look at the other Avatar reviews in a little while.

  5. satya   December 14, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    Trailer looks good.

    Planning to watch it in a day or two. I had liked Viggo in “lord of the rings” trilogy.

    but i am all excited about Avatar. james cameroon is coming back after 11 year hiatus. Responds:

    1. You write: I had liked viggio in “lord of the rings” trilogy.

    We haven’t seen that.

    Seen Viggo only in Eastern Promises, Appaloosa and now The Road.

    2. You write: i am all excited about Avatar.

    It’ll be interesting to see how Avatar fares in Telugu, Tamil, Bhojpuri et al. πŸ˜‰

    We remember reading that Avatar (like 2012) is releasing in regional languages in India.

  6. Vetti Jijaji   December 14, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    It is $16 in NYC, $13 in our ooru for the Thursday 12:01 show. Planning to watch it next week in IMAX 3D. It will be pointless to watch the 2D version, as per the reviews.

    Yeah, couple of reviews have said that the second half totters. Ebert, who usually doesn’t like the 3D gimmicks, was impressed by the 3D.. Was part of the 250 mil. used to [Deleted] πŸ˜‰

    Titanic wasn’t fascinating for me except for some of the Kate Winslet scenes πŸ˜‰ Responds:

    We’re going to try to rein in our 3D expectations.

    A few months back, we watched the 3D film Up a few months and ended ‘Up’ disappointed.

    As we wrote in response to your comment on the Up Review:

    some scenes looked brighter and better without the 3D glasses.

  7. Vetti Jijaji   December 14, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    Ebertmama has this to say about the the dimming issue

    Cameron promised he’d unveil the next generation of 3-D in “Avatar.” I’m a notorious skeptic about this process, a needless distraction from the perfect realism of movies in 2-D. Cameron’s iteration is the best I’ve seen — and more importantly, one of the most carefully-employed. The film never uses 3-D simply because it has it, and doesn’t promiscuously violate the fourth wall. He also seems quite aware of 3-D’s weakness for dimming the picture, and even with a film set largely in interiors and a rain forest, there’s sufficient light. I saw the film in 3-D on a good screen at the AMC River East and was impressed. I might be awesome in True IMAX. Good luck in getting a ticket before February. Responds:

    Yeah, read that earlier today.

    Ebert told you about the dimming/brightness issue of 3D on December 11 but we told you about the same problem six months earlier, on June 7. πŸ˜‰

    We watched Up in a theater that uses TI’s DLP (Digital Light Processing) technology.

    Maybe, IMAX 3D technology is better.

  8. Vetti Jijaji   December 14, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    yes, of course, there is no comparison.. Ebert is nowhere near you. Responds:

    You write: Ebert is nowhere near you.

    Thank you, for acknowledging the obvious. πŸ˜‰

    Now, if you’ll excuse we have some cheap quality supermarket fruit cake – unfortunately, not on sale πŸ™ – to finish.

  9. iamsumu   December 14, 2009 at 3:01 pm

    I’ve read the book and somehow felt that it would be a difficult concept to film. The lack of characters and especially since a similar post apocalyptic movie “I am Legend” being released a few years back.

    Reg. Avatar if you are planning to watch it on IMAX, you should watch it on a real IMAX, check out Aziz Ansari’s hilarious post on the IMAX scam Responds:

    1. You Write: I’ve read the book and somehow felt that it would be a difficult concept to film.

    So have we. That’s why we wrote (tongue in cheek):

    The whiners may complain that The Road does not rise to the level of Cormac McCarthyÒ€ℒs Pulitzer Prize winning eponymous novel on which the movie is based (say, which movie ever lives up to the book)

    2. Thanks for the IMAX link. Very informative. Folks, must read.

    Now we have to search for a link to the ‘Real’ IMAX theaters.

    We are searching for a link on the ‘Real’ IMAX theaters. We’ll put it up if we find a good link.

  10. the gora   December 14, 2009 at 3:42 pm

    Don’t know if it’s playing around NJ, but I was out of town over the weekend and saw “The Messenger.”

    It had Woody Harrelson and a few other niche actors in it like Steve Buscemi. Very, very good film. It centers on two military officers who are responsible for knocking on doors to deliver news to families that their loved ones have been killed in war. Definitely worth seeing and way better than Invictus in my eyes. Harrelson in particular was amazing. Responds:

    Read about The Messenger. Novel story.

    Seems to be a limited release. Not playing anywhere in a 50-mile radius.

    The movie has received good reviews.

  11. DW-A(1/2)Dr.   December 15, 2009 at 8:32 am

    So anyway, Paanch has “released”.

    The directorial debut of Anurag Kashyap. That which the censor board refused to clear for over 5 years. When it did get cleared (in 2008), the producers (due to problems of their own) didn’t release it. Finally, its on torrent. And if you have grown a conscience over the years, not to worry, AK himself approves it (the comments section) although he has stated he isn’t the one who leaked it (he had said, more than once, he would leak it if it hasn’t released by this year’s end).

    Plz feel free to watch it, to use his own words. Gulaal isn’t on netflix, I know, but this you can’t say the same.

    PS: I haven’t watched it. So got no basis, other than the quality of his other works, to recommend Paanch. Hey, its free so… Responds:

    Read the review and some of the comments including AK’s.

    Will pass on this until the official DVD is out.

  12. unknownvirus   December 17, 2009 at 12:56 pm

    check out what RGV has say abt Avatar.. Responds:

    Read it because you put that link.

    But really does anyone care what a little twit like RGV thinks? His last movies (that we watched) RGV Ki Aag and Sarkar Raj were execrable pieces of shit.

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