Few things can prepare you for The Road. Reading the book it is based on would be a big one, but if you’re like me and haven’t read a book that wasn’t school related for most of your existence then chances are you won’t have known about the original novelization beforehand. The other thing that can prepare you is reading a review of it so you can really get an idea for just how dark and depressing the film is. Finally there’s watching it a second time, because after the first at least you’ll know that this isn’t a film that is something to be taken lightly. There are some serious themes in this film and it’s because of those that it scored high with critics and low with box office sales, bringing the lightly budgeted $25 million dollar film to a mere $23 million worldwide (although with fewer than 400 theaters in the US showing it, it’s no wonder it did so poorly).
From Cormac McCarthy, author of No Country For Old Men, comes the highly anticipated big screen adaptation of the beloved, best-selling and Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, THE ROAD. An all-star cast is featured in this epic post-apocalyptic tale of the survival of a father and his young son as they journey across a barren America that was destroyed by a mysterious cataclysm. A masterpiece adventure, THE ROAD boldly imagines a future in which men are pushed to the worst and the best that they are capable of – a future in which a father and his son are sustained by love.
I actually read so little about this film that when I first sat down to watch it, I had no idea that it was even a post-apocalypse type outing. It’s not really the fault of the film as I think that’s something you have to be expected to know about prior to going into it, but I have to say it was definitely interesting not finding that out prior to seeing it. It didn’t really harm my enjoyment of the movie, but it’s kind of like going into watching a dark comedy and thinking it was just a comedy—you have to adjust to the new tone before you can really attempt to enjoy it.
As shocking as the whole story turned out to be at first, it was something that you quickly grew used to. The film eventually not only became about the survival of these two main characters (brilliantly designated merely as “The Father” and “The Son”) but also about their relationship with one another. With the story of “The Mother” slowly told through flashbacks (something that apparently expanded upon her role greatly from the book), you begin to not only learn more about The Father but also how this apocalyptic world came to be. It’s far from a happy tale and one that plays out a little too eerily like some kind of true story that is just waiting to happen (not to sound paranoid, but it just feels quite “real” at times).
There is also some real tension in the film. The fact that nearly everyone left on Earth is now a cannibal is not only a frightening notion but also a terrifying visual when applied to the screen. Carrying around a gun with two bullets just so you can commit suicide rather than live through the torture that is being eaten alive is certainly something that is usually more closely tied to a horror novel; here it’s simply a way of life for our main characters, with the father coming dangerously close to killing his own son in fear of cannibals finding them. The film is just a few minutes shy of two hours, but it creates such a shocking and vivid world in that short amount of time. Everything feels (depressingly) real and even when actors like Robert Duvall show up, they do so in such a mangled form that you don’t even recognize them. Viggo Mortensen and Charlize Theron aside, Guy Pearce was the only other actor in this film that immediately stood out to me—everyone else was so covered in dirt and grime that it was difficult to make anything out.
While there are a few moments where you’ll smile (usually just tender moments between Father and Son), the vast majority of this film will be spent attempting to wrap your head around this chaotic world. The film is as disturbing as it is fascinating and for that alone (well, that and the outstanding performances by the actors) it’s a Recommended outing…but honestly and truly only if you feel up to it, as it is an emotionally draining film and not something you’ll likely hop on the bandwagon to watch again and again.
Sony releases The Road to both Blu-ray and DVD, although for this review I’ll be going over the DVD release only. It arrives in a standard amaray style DVD case without any fancy inserts or anything; it has a fair share of extras although it’s certainly nothing that blows you away in terms of complexity or completeness. Video for this film looks clean and clear—as clear as a desolate, post-apocalyptic Earth can look at least. The image is tinted brown and full of dirt and grime throughout and rarely do you even see anything remotely resembling a clean image (flashbacks are as close as you come, what with the sun blotted out by the apocalypse-bringing event). Still it’s a solid transfer and when paired with the DD5.1 audio you get a solid viewing experience, although it would undoubtedly be significantly better on Blu-ray should you decide to go that route.
Deleted and Extended Scenes
The Making of The Road
Theatrical Trailer #1
Theatrical Trailer #2
The director’s commentary is really the only thing that’s worth checking out here, as the other segments are either too brief or short to concern yourself with (although a few of the deleted scenes are interesting). Still, the commentary track is quite interesting as it goes into a nice round of detail about adapting the book and some notes on the casting as well. Overall a solid release and, like the film, a Recommended title to pick up. It may not be something you watch repeatedly but it’s still a fantastic film nonetheless (which can be said for most of Mortensen’s recent works, it seems).
The Road arrives on DVD and Blu-ray on May 25th.