— by MARIUSZ ZUBROWSKI —
Upon seeing “The Road,” I’ve stockpiled as much Coca Cola as I could get my hands on. Why such an endeavor? It’s because John Hillcoat’s sophomore film showed me that even when you can’t trust the sanity of your fellow man, you can trust the quality of America’s favorite drink.
Before being enticed to write a review, I sat staring at the goldmine of red-and-white cans that have overwhelmed my home and pondered the idea “If I have a child, is it possible that a simple drink can bond us just like in the movie?” But in all seriousness, “The Road” is simply one of the best films — if not the best film — of the year.
The story follows a nameless father (Viggo Mortensen) and his nameless son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) as they travel the ravaged post-apocalypse America. The man is determined to reach “the coast,” which is believed to be a last stand for any survivor. But, of course, the unspecified terror that claimed everyday life also claimed most of the food-supply, causing many survivors to turn to cannibalism. However, the boy and the man believe that they carry “the fire,” or the will to do good in such a desolate place.
Why is the story so fascinating? Besides the social commentary, it’s also because of the acting prowess of Mortensen and McPhee. Simple characters like a protective father or a scared child are given an extra layer because of the actor’s excellent portrayals. McPhee does an incredible job playing a child that is born after the destruction but who is still stunned and Viggo does his role as a determined father whose “flame” slowly dies out throughout the film, masterfully.
More of these character’s pasts are exposed in the flashback sequences that feature Charlize Theron as the man’s wife and mother to son. We are given a glimpse of man’s past as a loving husband who worked peacefully at a ranch but tension rises as the woman gives birth to a child after the damage has been done. These scenes show that cannibalism isn’t the only terror for the man, it’s also his haunting past.
The landscapes look just as they were meant to look, dark and bleak. There are no spectacular explosions and enormous tsunamis, only dust and smoke. The environment was not meant to be the enemy, but a grim reminder of life prior to the incident. Other human-beings are all what man and boy have to fear, and rightfully so, because not everyone carries their “fire.”
So as I sit some of the “black gold” that I’ve stockpiled in case of impending doom, I’ll conclude this review by saying that John Hillcoat has adapted Cormac McCarty’s masterpiece with a masterpiece of his own. I assure you that it inspires more than blatant advertisement. We are given nothing but slight glimpses of life before the destruction, no cause, and no names. Yet however, it feels like these characters were intricately explained by not being explained. It’s hard not to cheer as the man and the boy narrowly escape death in the hell that has become of America. So raise your cherry-red cans for “The Road” is one worth traveling.
As an added bonus, here is a bit of trivia that I stumbled upon:
John Hillcoat had to film the soda scene with the father and son multiple times, each time with a different brand of soda in fear that Coco-Cola wouldn’t want to be associated with the material. In the end, it took a personal call from Viggo Mortensen to the president of Coco-Cola to secure the use of their product.
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I have to say I was really on the fence about seeing this, but you have definitely swayed me toward seeing it. I’m in the middle of the book and it’s really great so far. If he can transfer it onscreen as you said he did I have no doubt it will be worth watching.