The Road reviews

Mister Tee
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Postby Mister Tee » Sun Jun 13, 2010 11:31 am

Line me up with Eric. I found this a work of clear integrity, with a sensational look, but for me it was a dreary 1:50 that bored me almost throughout. I had no idea what the point was, or, put better, what original point was had in mind -- because, though I couldn't cite specific examples, it feels I've seen this "two partners struggling along the road in a post-apocalypse world" thing multiple times before. I've not been a McCarthy reader yet -- except for No Country after the film, which hardly counts -- so it's hard for me to judge it against his body of work. But I'd have to guess his narrative voice lent something to this material that doesn't survive here -- and I wonder if those who did read the book, even if they prefer this version, are able to fund the material with memories of the book that are unavailable to those of us who haven't read it.

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Postby Sabin » Sun Dec 13, 2009 8:06 pm

The Road (John Hillcoat)

Yup. I failed. I didn't read the book. I'm an asshole. Lord knows, I've had enough time. Lord knows, my FUCKING ROOMMATE just finished it and it's sitting in his room right now. Lord knows, my only task in life is not spending money as I wait for work. I'm pretty sure reading books already in my possession qualifies as...sigh...never mind.

I've been told the book is all about the McCarthy-esque minutiae of continued existence, which is the one thing I think is missing from this film. It never really feels like they've been trudging for the ages they must be. I don't know what Eric is talking about. I could have sat through so much more of this film. Now, one of my best friends told me that essentially the pitch for this book is MAN AND SON IN POST-APOCALYPTIC WORLD MUST GO TO THE COAST WITH ONLY A GUN WITH TWO BULLETS. ONE FOR DAD, ONE FOR SON. WHEN HE MUST ACTUALLY USE ONE OF THE BULLETS, IT'S AN INSANELY TENSE SITUATION. They get that out of the way pretty goddamn early on. That's a little unfortunate because...well, for lack of a better phrase, what a Man situation to be in? And Viggo Mortensen is about as perfect for this role as could be imagined. I admire to no end this actor in depicting the complexity of the modern warrior in A History of Violence, Eastern Promises, and especially here. He's such a poignant badass and he looks absolutely haggard here. His relationship with Kodi Smit-McPhee is one of the most touching things I will see all year.

It's a shame that Javier Aguirresarobe will not get the Oscar nomination he so richly deserves. I haven't been incredibly impressed with his work in the past and I think the Vicky Cristina Barcelona was one of the worst shot films of 2008, but this is a stunning, stunning film. Credit to the production designers as well. My chief reservation with The Road - which is certainly one of the better films I've seen this year; in a year shy of outright masterpieces, its flaws herald it as attempting more than most films consider - is in how truncated it is. Viggo becomes moribund early on but it does not feel like his death is really set-up. It kind of comes at you. What follows is - I'll say it again, and within the context of a McCarthy adaptation - incredibly touching.
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Postby Eric » Fri Dec 11, 2009 7:22 am

One bullet for you, one for me.

Unless we run into a cellar of subhuman livestock.




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Postby Damien » Fri Dec 11, 2009 2:25 am

Eric wrote:Anti-barometer juggernaut! I thought The Road was astonishingly banal, and was only barely saved by a decent bit by Duvall.

Choose your weapon, sir, and we'll meet with our seconds at 6 in the morning.
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Postby Damien » Fri Dec 11, 2009 2:24 am

dws1982 wrote:
Damien wrote:Robert Duvall’s presence lessens any movie he’s in.

I'll never understand why you hate that man.

Because he's one of those actors with whom you can always see the wheels turning. But unlike most of them (eg, Geoffrey Rush, Geraldine Page), he manages to be a consistently and astonishingly boring screen presence.




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Postby Eric » Fri Dec 11, 2009 1:44 am

Anti-barometer juggernaut! I thought The Road was astonishingly banal, and was only barely saved by a decent bit by Duvall.

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Postby dws1982 » Fri Dec 11, 2009 1:10 am

Damien wrote:Robert Duvall’s presence lessens any movie he’s in.

I'll never understand why you hate that man.

I am kind of glad to see that I am the only one who wasn't crazy about the novel. (Although I think I liked it more than you.) I've loved some of McCarthy's other work, but I thought the critics (and Pulitzer voters) went way overboard with that one.

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Postby Damien » Fri Dec 11, 2009 12:47 am

What a beautiful movie! It manages to be contemplative and thoughtful will simultaneously being more exciting than any summer blockbuster. The films has so many layers of themes and subtexts in the movie, chief among them the perseverance and overwhelming power of goodness (which sounds trite when you write it like that, but is anything but in the picture). Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee interact extraordinarily – the love between, and devotion of, father and son is palpable. Great unvarnished acting. The production design is pretty amazing, too. The movie’s major flaws are flashback scenes with Charlize Theron as Mortensen’s wife – they ring hollow and are banal, and Robert Duvall’s presence lessens any movie he’s in.

The film is a huge improvement over Cormac McCarthy’s novel. McCarthy seemed to be trying to out-Hemingway Hemingway with curt, precise ungarnished sentences, so much so that the book bordered on the self-parodistic. The novel is emotionally barren – the film is anything but – the final scenes are overwhelming.

8/10
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Postby flipp525 » Thu Sep 03, 2009 9:40 am

Mister Tee wrote:Sadly, the long delay doesn't appear to have helped with this one. Unless McCarthy is totally off base, scratch our first hopeful.

You can find a review to support any opinion of almost any film. The second review you posted seemed quite positive. I'm going to reserve judgement and see the film before declaring it D.O.A.




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Postby Mister Tee » Thu Sep 03, 2009 9:34 am

ScreenDaily, however, saw a different movie.


The Road
3 September, 2009 | By Fionnuala Halligan

Dir. John Hillcoat. US. 2009. 113 mins.

As heartbreaking on screen as it was on Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer-prize winning pages, The Road is an almost unbearably sad film, beautifully arranged and powerfully acted – a tribute to the array of talents involved. There is so much in this picture, from dread, horror, to suspense, bitterly moving love, extraordinary, Oscar-worthy art direction and a desperate lead performance from Viggo Mortensen which perfectly illustrates the wrenching desperation of parental love. But its hopelessness will make The Road hard going for general audiences: critical and awards support are vital to its commercial success or failure and even still The Road will be a challenge.


Artistically, however, this film is a success, and anyone who sees it is unlikely to ever forget John Hillcoat’s (The Proposition) interpretation of McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic planet where “each day is greyer than the one before”. Production designer Chris Kennedy, using mainly Pennsylvania but also post-Katrina locations in Louisiana, presents a world which is slowly dying - Nick Cave’s sparse soundtrack punctuated by the crashes of trees falling to the ground, dead.

We don’t know the exact nature of the Apocalypse, just that The Man (Mortensen) and his wife (Theron) survived, and that she was pregnant. Perhaps the biggest departure from the book is in The Woman’s character; fleshed out here, but still with limited screen time, she doesn’t want to bring The Boy into this bleak world – later on, she is angry that they only have two bullets left in their gun. “They will rape me … and they will rape him. … They are going to rape us and kill us and eat us and you won’t face it. You’d rather wait for it to happen,” she tells The Man.

Rape and cannibalism are just two of the horrors of The Road, and some ten years the Man and the Boy are travelling it alone, going south to the sea. There is nothing on it – ruined landscapes, bodies of people who have killed themselves or been killed, danger, dirt, gray dust. There’s a terrifying sequence in a house with evil secrets under the floor; later on, another underground cavern yields up delights, but fear is always there.

Early on, the Man and Boy are shown encountering bandits travelling on a tank; initially, it conjures up memories of Mad Max but The Road dispenses with the cartoonishness of the former when one of the men looks at the boy and the horror they face daily becomes clear.

The Man has brought The Boy into the world, but it’s a terrible world with no hope and no future, only the evil that lies within men laid bare as the world dies. The Boy represents hope, but what hope is there? Of survival? Alone? The Road speaks to parents of their most unspeakable fears.

As The Boy, young Smit-McPhee looks uncannily like Charlize Theron which helps with initial establishing sequences. He is convincing in what must have been a tough, hard shoot for an 11-year-old – there’s a lot of rain in this film, and a lot of terror to convey. A bleak Viggo Mortensen, his face etched like an El Greco painting, urgently and convincingly conveys his character’s love and desperation, the actor’s physicality heightening the sense of reality – a sense that becomes overwhelming by the hopeless third act, despite the attempted relief of the final moments.

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Postby Mister Tee » Thu Sep 03, 2009 9:30 am

Almost unremarked on here: busy season kicks off today, with Telluride and Venice starting, and Toronto right in the wings. I'll post what reviews of majors I can in individual threads, and put strays in a general festival thread.

Sadly, the long delay doesn't appear to have helped with this one. Unless McCarthy is totally off base, scratch our first hopeful.


The Road
By TODD MCCARTHY

A Dimension Films release presented with 2929 Prods. of a Nick Wechsler and Chockstone Pictures production. Produced by Wechsler, Paula Mae Schwartz, Steve Schwartz. Executive producers, Todd Wagner, Mark Cuban, Marc Butan, Rudd Simmons. Directed by John Hillcoat. Screenplay, Joe Penhall, based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy.

This "Road" leads nowhere. If you're going to adapt a book like Cormac McCarthy's 2006 bestseller, you're pretty much obliged to make a terrific film or it's not worth doing -- first because expectations are high, and second, because the picture needs to make it worth people's while to sit through something so grim. Except for the physical aspects of this bleak odyssey by a father and son through a post-apocalyptic landscape, this long-delayed production falls dispiritingly short on every front. Showing clear signs of being test-screened and futzed with to death, the Dimension release may receive a measure of respect in some quarters but is very, very far from the film it should have been, spelling moderate to tepid B.O. prospects after big fest preems.
Even more than "No Country for Old Men," with which the Coen brothers showed what is possible artistically and commercially with a McCarthy novel onscreen, "The Road" reads extremely cinematically. Filled almost entirely by spare but vivid physical descriptions of a decimated United States in its death throes after an unexplained catastrophe, and with limited dialogue, the book serves up images and tense situations that practically leap from the page as potential movie scenes.

Some things were obvious: The film's style needed to be as terse, exacting, stripped-down, tough and precise as McCarthy's prose style. The picture also should have been shocking, haunting and, at the end, deeply moving. As it is, director John Hillcoat ("The Proposition") and lenser Javier Aguirresarobe have come up with some arresting scorched-earth vistas captured on locations in Louisiana, Pennsylvania and Oregon, but have missed the bigger picture almost entirely.

It's a survival story in the most elemental possible way, as an unnamed man and boy, about 11, trudge daily through a dark world of barren forests with falling trees, torched towns and vandalized stores, empty roads and depleted fields, in search of food and shelter, all the while taking care to avoid roving gangs searching for defenseless humans to be turned into slaves or, more likely, dinner.

The man (Viggo Mortensen) has a revolver with two bullets in it, then only one. As far too many flashbacks of his pre-catastrophe life reveal, he's not a military or survivalist type, and he had a gorgeous wife (Charlize Theron) until she couldn't stand it anymore and took off. But his love for his son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) has made him resourceful and resolute despite the utter lack of long-term prospects, and he continually responds to the youngster's despairing questions with answers that insist upon perseverance.

For reasons that remain unclear even after they arrive there, they are walking toward the sea, and dreadful sights abound along the way: skeletons, rotting bodies, naked prisoners locked in dark basements like animals to be butchered (the book's two most ghastly images have been dispensed with, however). Occasionally, they chance upon an abandoned house with a stock of canned food (Coca-Cola has no problem surviving the apocalypse), clean blankets and clothes.

The drama is one little genre step away from being an outright zombie movie, something that's much more evident onscreen, with its drooling, crusty-toothed aggressors and live humans with missing limbs; memories of "Night of the Living Dead" unavoidably advance in all the scenes in which the man and boy take refuge in a house, where they must contend with unfriendly marauders.

But Hillcoat, who played with heavy violence in "The Proposition" and made some of it stick, shows no talent for or inclination toward setting up a scene here; any number of sequences in "The Road" could have been very suspenseful if built up properly, but Hillcoat, working from a script by Joe Penhall, just hopscotches from scene to scene in almost random fashion without any sense of pacing or dramatic modulation.

Dialogue that should have been directed with an almost Pinteresque sense of timing is delivered without meaningful shadings, principally by two actors who have no chemistry together. Unfortunately, Mortensen lacks the gravitas to carry the picture; suddenly resembling Gabby Hayes with his whiskers and wayward hair, the actor has no bottom to him, and his interactions with Smit-McPhee, whom one can believe as Theron's son but not Mortensen's, never come alive. Tellingly, both thesps are better in their individual scenes with other actors; Mortensen gets into it with Robert Duvall, who plays an old coot met along the road, while Smit-McPhee registers a degree of rapport with Guy Pearce, practically unrecognizable at first as another wanderer. Generally, the boy's readings are blandly on the nose.

Scraps of narration by Mortensen seem like unnecessary afterthoughts, while the preponderance of scenes featuring the wife is explainable only because Theron's presence needed to be justified by more screen time. Score by longtime Hillcoat collaborator Nick Cave and Warren Ellis borders on the treacly, softening the tone and further conventionalizing a film that should have gone the other direction toward something harsh and daring.


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