Post-No Country for Old Men, was there any chance they wouldn’t adapt Cormac McCarthy’s Oprah-approved best-seller The Road? Well, they did, and The Weinstein Company produced it, and if you had read the book, you’d know why this was a tough sell, and eventually flopped (on top of being released by the struggling Weinstein Company). The story of a father (Viggo Mortensen) and his son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) trudging through a post-apocalyptic wasteland as they fend off cannibals and encounter strange people (including cameos by Robert Duvall, Guy Pearce, and Michael K. Williams) as they cling to staying alive and keeping their souls, The Road is a heavy experience. My review of The Road on Blu-ray after the jump.
The unnamed characters live in a wasteland, with the film briefly flashing back to the father’s life with his wife (Charlize Theron). These moments have some great moments of poignancy. But the world his son knows is only this, this wasteland. They traverse from location to location, hoping to avoid others, but always stumbling across them. At first there’s a gang of cannibals (with Garret Dillahunt credited as “urinating gang member”), and when that confrontation turns sour, it shows how desperate things have become. They run across a supermarket, and find a can of soda, and that’s a great moment for them. Eventually they do meet some okay people, like the old man (Robert Duvall), but for every good encounter, they run across someone like the thief (Michael K. Williams).
Director John Hillcoat is probably the perfect director for this material, as if it’s meant to be Oscar bait it can’t remind you too much of films like The Road Warrior or The Omega Man. There’s little sense of exploitation; this is a serious work, damn it. And that may be why it also feels just a little too labored and lifeless. Where Cormac McCarthy’s book had the benefit of his prose, here it’s just the barren wasteland of torment and the end of the world. There’s a little bit of hope mixed in with a whole lot of death and gray hues, but you can’t enjoy watching this end of the world – it’s too glum.
The performances are excellent – it’s Viggo’s show, and he does well by the material, and his relationship with Smit-McPhee is believable – and the film does get the heart of what a father will do for his child, while also representing the fear of the outside world, and the film works well as a metaphor for that, but I think it works better in literature.
Sony Pictures Blu-ray presents the film in widescreen (2.35:1) and in DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio. The detail on this one is excellent; you really can distinguish between the light grays and the dark grays. The film comes with a commentary by director John Hillcoat, who speaks well about the making of the movie, and the influence of McCarthy. There are five deleted/extended scenes (7 min.), there’s also a really glossy making of (14 min.) and two trailers.