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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Road: To Nowhere

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Set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, 2009's The Road follows a father and his son as they are trying to survive in a dead world where there are almost no resources left. There is no plant or animal life left, let alone much food and water. The very few humans that are still alive, are dangerous bandits that more than likely will rob them for their belongings, as well as taking the flesh from their bones just to fill their hungry bellies. There is little to be said as to what has caused the world to get to this darkened point, but there are flashbacks to a once happy life that would come to crumble under the pressure of the cataclysmic happenings.

theroad1 I'm not really sure what else there is to say about The Road story wise, as it's as simple as watching a father and his son walk from point A to point B. They have a few theroad2run-ins with various people, some good, some not so good. They find food and shelter but are forced to run away due to fear of being cannibalized by scavengers. They are on a journey, but it's a journey to nowhere, essentially, which really makes their travel and need to survive completely pointless. While that may seem poetic in a way, it's unfortunately pretty boring to be quite honest.

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The Road is about the despair of a father, a father that’s love and fear is so deep, he would kill his own son to keep him from being knowingly victimized by bandits. He even teaches his son that suicide is the alternative to being possibly raped and eaten by less than respectable survivors of this apocalypse. On the other hand, the boy has hope, a youthful hope, an unrealistic hope that his father knows can be very dangerous for the overly hopeful and trusting boy.

theroadThis is not a film that would focus on action but on emotion. Intense, heart ripping, emotion, and there are twenty gallons of that   emotion displayed on theroad3screen, but not one single drop of it has any sort of impact. I'm not sure if I can pinpoint why The Road couldn't pull me into the character's plight, but it seemed as if it was expected of me to have certain reactions without earning them first. Without making me care for the characters beforehand.

I am the type of filmgoer that can easily have emotion projected on me, even if it is from a source that I have no personal connection with. I can channel it and be completely swept up by sentiment and passion, as I can simply relate to it as a human being with feelings. So maybe not having a child of my own could be looked at as a factor, but I seriously doubt that's the case. I should be able to feel a connection, whether or not I have a similar one in my own personal life.

theroad4 It is that attachment that would make or break this film, and without it, The Road fails incredibly. I didn't root for them to make it because there was theroad9nothing  to be made - there was no investment because there was no point. To make things worse, the boy was incredibly annoying on almost every level. The character is obnoxiously whiny and mopy, and it's not even because he is living a horrible life in a devastated world, it's because he has all this hope while his father doesn't. Give me a break.

Kodi Smit-McPhee's performance doesn't help any either, as everything he said and did drove me up the wall. He really gives Jake Lloyd a run for his money, and if he said 'papa' one more time, I may have tried to fit my head into the garbage disposal. I cannot help but think if there had been a better actor involved, the film may have been slightly more bearable for me, but I stress slightly because the character is hokey to begin with. Mortensen, on the other hand, is fantastic, but that is not much of a surprise, I suppose. Nevertheless, his gripping performance seems all for not since his character couldn't grasp my affection in the slightest.

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It's really too bad, The Road is simply gorgeous and the look is what I think we all would come to expect if the world was indeed dead. The decay of the planet and the minimal characters that inhabit it are all very believable on an aesthetic level and the art department deserves much kudos for their projection of this lifeless future. While John Hillcoat's direction is technically solid, being the director, he also failed to deliver a film that could make me care at all about its characters and what happens to them. I never once felt their pain or even their few moments of happiness, and if I cannot feel it, why should I be invested in it?

8 comments:

  1. Thanks for the review. I also felt the film was very contrived and super manipulative. I hate when a movie tries to force emotions out of me. And that whiny kid! - I've never wanted to see someone get cannibalized so much in my life. I love the genre and don't mind an existential theme, but this film seemed only half formed.

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  2. The book was so incredibly beautiful, but very internal, I was surprised they made this into a movie at all.

    You leave the kid alone. He's in the apocalypse.

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  3. Shiftless: Yeah, I am surprised at how well received it is, especially when the film has nothing going for it below the surface.

    I have heard negative reviews more from folks that have read the book, which I imagine is fantastic, but I think we all know how often a book-to-film translation actually works. Thanks for stopping by!

    Simon: I have heard nothing but great things about the book, and you get the feeling that the movie comes from a very internal source material when you watch it. I would love to know what is going on in the man's head when faced with certain situations, which would greatly make the story all the more impactful.

    And you're right, I should leave that kid alone, and I will, right after I push him off of a cliff!

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  4. I was so disappointed by The Road. I agree with your review, it's incredibly depressing yet incredibly boring. It just makes you feel numb. Nothing to root for or get invested in because everything feels so worthless.

    This movie had the opportunity to be great, but just didn't capture its potential.

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  5. Although yet to see it, but from all acoounts I have read and now yours, it looks like they didn't build up the characters enough for viewers to invest in them like you said. And its a shame as I think it has a good story to be told if they had done it right for the audience to get more into it. Good and fair post, enjoyed the read.

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  6. I think THE ROAD is very overrated. Haven't read the book, but I hear it's devastating. That being said, I wasn't expecting a lighthearted movie or anything of the sort. Still, though... Watching THE ROAD is basically just watching a bunch of bums look for food. I had to deal with enough crackhead bums when I lived in Vegas for two years; I don't want to watch a movie about them. I guess the movie hits you differently if you're a father (or mother), but since I don't have any children, I simply found it to be quite boring.

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  7. The book is absolutely incredible and NEVER slow. Not much happens, but the style and language are so damn good that you simply can't put it down.

    I was hesitant to see the movie because it seemed far too literal an interpretation. It is. Mortenson is amazing, as is most of the supporting cast (I always cheer when Omar from THE WIRE gets more work) but the movie just falls flat. There's a sweeping soundtrack that kills me, as I think it would have been far more effective with a much starker sound. The landscape looks fine but ultimately, the film does nothing that the book didn't do, and doesn't do any of it nearly as well.

    I compare it often to No Country For Old Men, which is also VERY close to its source material (same author) but still manages to use the art of film to bring it something new. I just don't get these straight and tame adaptations.

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  8. Becky: It should be a great film for sure…it’s like all the stars were in alignment for a powerful and emotional film, yet somewhere things just didn’t pan out. I’m really surprised at the praise it has received from so many people, non of which have showed up for this review!

    Dempsey: Thanks a lot, man! It is the lack of proper development that really hurts this one, and I think maybe it is simply too much for even a feature length move to translate such inner emotion. Maybe a mini-series or something would work better to spend the much needed time to build up some sort of character/viewer bound.

    Aaron: Ha, you must be hobophobic! It’s true, without any warranted connection to them, it really is just watching a couple of bums picking through whatever to find a bite. You can’t feel bad for them, because you don’t care about them and it doesn’t help that the man, in true hobo fashion, is running around naked half the time.

    Emily: I do need to check out the novel some time as everyone says it is fantastic. It does seem as if the film is almost soulless, which could come from just carbon copying the book without adding anything to make it work for celluloid. Even to someone that hasn’t read it, its lack of depth and investment is still apparent.

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