Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Charlize Theron
Director: John Hillcoat
Running Time: 107 mins
The Road is an American film about a father and son who travel an endless road as they try to survive in a post-apocalyptic wasteland.
This is an absolutely terrifying film. With more of a deep and devastating emotional effect than any horror movie could hope to have, The Road proves an unrelentingly dark and bleak look at the collapse of civilisation. It’s without a doubt a brilliant film, and thanks to brilliant directing, writing and two stunning central performances, it’s completely enthralling throughout, but it’s not a film for the faint-hearted by any means.
Let’s start off by looking at what exactly this film is. In the aftermath of some sort of apocalypse, a boy and his father have to survive. That’s pretty much it, but throughout the movie, we see the various threats to their survival grow greater and greater, as well as the heartbreakingly stark portrayal of the collapse of civilisation.
So, watching the boy and his father struggle to survive is pretty heavy-going all on its own, however it’s the fact that the world is returned to Stone Age-like conditions, and where gangs, violence and even cannibalism are rife, that’s most powerful, containing both terrifying drama as well as a deeply saddening and affecting demonstration of how all humanity can be lost.
In similar fashion to the infamously bleak Threads, the film almost never lets up with its devastating drama, making it a genuinely heavy and difficult watch throughout, and although it’s far from pleasant, the emotional power of the film, in tandem with the incredible talent working throughout, makes it a thoroughly worthwhile watch.
Above all, the way in which the film is directed is really something to behold. Above all, the film’s painful and endless bleakness is what defines it, but that would be nothing without the ingenious atmosphere crafted by the director, making the film a very slow and difficult watch, thereby increasing the effect and pain you feel for our two main characters as they stand on the brink of death for effectively the entire movie.
What’s more is the film’s cinematography, which significantly reinforces the bleakness with its entirely grey colour palette. Save for moments in which we are given a bit of emotional comfort, particularly in the form of flashbacks to before the worst came, the movie is almost totally devoid of any colour, and the way that it’s carried through so genuinely, using settings and costumes to emphasise the colour rather than too much CGI, makes it all the more powerful.
Finally, we come to the performances. While such a slow and quiet film may not look the place for exceptional acting at first, the incredibly nuanced and emotionally genuine turns from both Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee are particularly striking. Not only do they show the horrors and pure desperation of their situation, but they bring what appears to be the very last shred of humanity in their father-son relationship, allowing you to keep fully emotionally engaged from beginning to end.
Overall, The Road is a very, very powerful film. At times the scariest and most devastating film you’ll ever see, and at others a tender and emotionally enthralling family drama, featuring stunning directing, writing and performances, but it all makes for a truly stunning watch, and that’s why I’m giving it an 8.6.