Saturday, March 10, 2018

The Road

and star in this subtly-scifi drama about a father and a son who are journeying through a freezing apocalyptic wasteland in pursuit of the one thing they have left: survival.

 Directed by , based on the novel by .

Nuclear fallout has killed all the animals and bugs, the plants and trees are dying and literally crumbling down around them, and humanity is all but gone. Sure, there are a few humans left, but most have lost their humanity. Suicide is only slightly more popular than cannibalism. The father is determined to protect his son as best he can, and grapples with the idea that someday the best protection he may be able to provide is to shoot him in the head with one of the two bullets remaining in his pistol.

This film is bleak. It's the epitome of the word. It started, and began explaining all of the above to me in Viggo's soft and dramatic voice-over, and when he was halfway done I thought there was no way in the world I was going to like where this movie goes. The journey might be well-told and beautifully, harrowingly shot, but it would be impossible to conclude and leave me happy. I thought that, but how wrong I was.

 Bleak scifi films love to end further down than they start. This one breaks the tradition for exceptional results.

The Road is a journey through hopelessness toward the impossible goal of hope. Miraculously, it gets there; and impressively, it gets there realistically. Through every turn the movie ponders the natural questions that its extreme setting creates: In the most dour situations, does survival ever become worthless? Can inhumanity or immorality be forced on people by circumstance, or is it always a choice they make? Is it possible to live in a world of pure evil, and not fall into evil?

With every question that is subtly posed, it seems that cynicism and pessimism will win every time, but then truth pushes its way through and the father and son press on, unsoiled. They carry "the fire" inside them, they say, and it seems to drive them past hardships that no one else had the courage or will to overcome. The determination they display in such a bleak world is staggering and inspiring.

There's so much rich content to glean. I feel like I picked up on 60% of what's there.

On the more technical side, the movie is taut -- put together excellently with a strong tone and beautiful imagery. The pacing is slow but steady, and consistently edged with foreboding suspense. Performances are wonderful, particularly Viggo, who carries the movie almost completely alone, and expresses all his questions and worries and thoughts without exposition via dialogue. Kodi is also great; this is the youngest I've ever seen him, so he doesn't get quite as much to do, but is still impressive.

This is a hard-hitting movie in the best possible way, leaving you haunted and pondering its dark themes. It may disturb or depress by its vile setting and the darkness it explores, but is determined to uplift with its themes and character arcs. Every message it gives, and every conclusion it makes, is doggedly, admirably, beautifully hopeful. Against all odds, this bleak little film left me soaring.

2 comments:

  1. Nice review! I read the books several years ago. The pace of it was so slow, I had a difficult time imagining it as a captivating movie. I'll have to give this one a shot. :)

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    1. Thanks Katy! It does have a slow pace, but it felt very rich to me, and not at all boring. Hope you enjoy!

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