Saturday, July 17, 2010

Movie Review: The Road

Hey! Are you feeling happy and optimistic? If you are, then watch The Road! It will make that cheerful feeling COMPLETELY VANISH WITHIN MOMENTS.

As far as post-apocalyptic fiction goes, The Road is one of the most realistic and serious movies you will find. Based on the Pulitzer prize winning novel by Cormac McCarthy, The Road follows the story of a man and his son wandering through the United States several years after a devastating and unnamed armageddon. Their desperate attempt to survive in a world where almost all life on earth has been wiped out is fraught with danger, and has a healthy dose of being depressed a lot.

With a movie this overwhelmingly gray and depressing, it's hard to find anything to laugh about. There's almost nothing about this movie that isn't incredibly grim, and the few "high points" in the movie are so bittersweet and short lived that they'll still make you feel as though you should be tearing up a bit.

That said, the movie is very well made. The cinematography is fantastic, even though the world is mostly gray and covered in ash and soot. The writing is very good, not to mention very true to the original work on which the movie is based. The acting is also impressive, particularly Viggo Mortenson's portrayal of the father trying to teach his son the values of humanity in a world that has nearly abandoned all such ideals. On a technical level this movie is fantastic, and I am hard pressed to find anything wrong with it in any way.

So... why did I not like this film?

That's actually not difficult to figure out, with a bit of thought. While the movie is brilliant in all of the technical aspects, The Road is unfathomably depressing, and has little to no message behind it. While it does follow the story of the book almost to a T, the story is basically about how the end of the world is bad and that humanity, when stripped of all that makes it comfortable, degrades into bloodthirst and madness. Essentially, The Road is a ridiculously well done character study about two humans in an inhuman world, trying to survive both literally and metaphorically as they try to keep their human values.

A lot of people would probably really like this movie, as it is almost nothing but wonderful character development. Even I like to put over-the-top explosions to the side for a bit and watch character growth for a while. But here's the thing about the Road - through all the character development and talk of carrying on humanity, both the characters and the audience are aware of the futility of it all. Everyone involved in the movie knows that humanity is giving out its dying breaths, so what's the point of all of this? It's not a resistance of an inevitable doom like most movies of this genre, but instead a dark grim acceptance that mankind's days are over. That's what ruins this movie for me - the knowledge that in the world of the film, none of what we see matters at all. Nothing changes. The world continues its slog down the road to nothingness, head hung low with dead and hopeless eyes.

Final Grade (Technical): B+
Final Grade (Overall Experience): C

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