Friday, 25 March 2011

The Road

The road is a post-apocalyptic film following the lives of a man (Viggo Mortensen) and his son (Kodi Smit-McPhee). Based on the book of the same name (written by Cormac McCarthy), It tells the story of how the man provides for and looks after his son, until he becomes very ill and the son then has to look after his father. We never learn what the event was that led to the the destroyed world in which the film is set, but through flashback we do see why the mother (Charlize Theron) is no longer around. When the man finally dies (tuberculosis? I don’t think we actually find out), the boy is found by a “veteran” (Guy Pearce), his wife and two kids, and so he finds some stability in this world (presumably...).

The shattered world in which the film is set is very 28 Days Later/Survivors/I am Legend-ish, but what sets is apart is the colour: there isn’t any! Everything is so subdued and mute that the film is essentially black and white, except for fire. Sometimes warming, sometimes sinister when it appears that the sky is burning; the fire brings a stark contrast to everything else in the world. Perhaps this is a reflection that fire is the only thing that is man-made now. The only other colour is a rainbow in a waterfall; all animals are dead, the trees are dying and falling down, there is really nothing colourful.

Adding to the sombre feel of the film is another haunting soundtrack by Warren Ellis and Nick Cave. Perhaps not as stunning as the soundtrack from The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford; but still, that looking out of the window on a rainy day/sense of loss ambiance is very apparent. The chord progressions these two come up with get me every time; the track “Memory” is very “Song for Bob” (which actually really choked me up the first time I listened to it outwith the film).

Viggo is superb as the everyman character who is thrust into this situation by the fate of the world, and who just wants to take care of his son. He manages to bring a humility and realism to the character, who is completely committed to his son:

“All I know is that the boy was my charge. And if he was not the word of God. Then God never spoke.”

But at the same time he is able to show a real desperation, and demonstrate that he is prepared to do anything to protect the boy. I really think Viggo is perfect for this role; don’t get me wrong he is great as Aragorn, Weps (apart from the flat-top), and in G.I. Jane; but his “guy next door” demeanour is far more suited to this film than as the King of Gondor. There is also a very brief appearance by Robert Duvall, though you can hardly tell it’s him; and despite what the extras on the DVD say, it really probably wasn’t worth getting him for the 5 min he’s on screen.

Overall The Road is a very good film, not a very cheery film, but a good one. The dynamic between the Man and his Son works really well, and you really feel the emotions the characters are going through as they try to find food, avoid cannibals, and not lose the food that they have found. Viggo is great, and the whole film has an atmosphere that is far more bleak than other films in this genre, and is difficult to shake.