The Road (R)

Drama 111 December 18, 2009
By J. Hoberman
The Road, Cormac McCarthy's Pulitzer Prize–winning, Oprah-endorsed post-apocalyptic survivalist prose poem—in which a father and his 10-year-old son traverse a despoiled landscape of unspeakable horror—was a quick, lacerating read. John Hillcoat's literal adaptation, which arrives one Thanksgiving past its original release date is, by contrast, a long, dull slog. Fidelity to the material is not the problem. On the contrary. Freezing, starving, and dodging cannibal marauders, The Man (earnest, increasingly Christ-like Viggo Mortensen) and The Boy (stolidly whimpering Kodi Smit-McPhee) follow the novel's keep-on-keepin'-on trajectory, "carrying the fire" of human decency, as well as a gun loaded with two suicide bullets. But there's a bizarre absence of dramatic tension. The Road's long and winding path to the multiplex might make a more fascinating saga than the movie itself. That the 2008 version was evidently deemed too bleak for audience consumption may account for the presence of Mortensen's lugubrious, voiceover croon and the ruminative keyboard doodling used to soften every other scene. Ultimately, The Road is less a disaster (or post-disaster) flick than a sort of global death trip—intended perhaps as an audience ordeal in the tradition of The Passion of the Christ, complete with redemptive ending and regularly articulated life lessons. All meetings on the road are potential parables.
John Hillcoat Kodi Smit-McPhee, Charlize Theron, Guy Pearce, Robert Duvall, Viggo Mortensen, Garret Dillahunt, Molly Parker, Michael K. Williams, Brenna Roth, Matt Reese Cormac McCarthy, Joe Penhall Paula Mae Schwartz, Steve Schwartz, Nick Wechsler The Weinstein Co./Dimension

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