Review: The Road (2009)

A long, long, long trip to the end of the line!

Screenplay By: Joe Penhall
Directed By: John Hillcoat

We never find out why the world is nearing its end in The Road. Like all great movies that are trying for something more than the base story of their film, The Road is not about why the world is coming to an end. Something has happened, the shit has hit the fan, and that is all we need to know. Those seeking a film that explores the possible causes or reasons for the end of the world will be disappointed by The Road. However, the truth of the film is that it is in many ways very disappointing.

I know that lately in my reviews I have written often of moments. The Road is yet another film where I will have to write about moments as opposed to the film as a whole. John Hillcoat’s film never truly comes together to form a whole motion picture. His fourth feature is a series of moments that spark interest, but The Road is never a film that feels like it is complete when looked at in its entirety. A movie full of moments can work, it can be fascinating and it can lead to a great film. That is not the case with The Road, as it surrounds its interesting moments with a mundane tone that betrays the emptiness of the film.

The film that Mr. Hillcoat has crafted is about emptiness. The empty spaces that make up the landscape, the empty shells that make up the people that our father and son protagonists meet along their journey, and the emptiness that threatens to envelop humanity in the future. Had the film been able to bolster the idea of emptiness with a fully compelling world or a world that deserved the ending the film gives us then The Road would have been a much better film.

The ending presents a very large problem because it tries to put an end to the argument that father and son have been having throughout the film without really voicing said argument. The Road takes a very harsh view of humanity, or at the very least the future of humanity. When the chips are down The Road believes that humanity will revert to its most base form. That is fine and well, I actually fall in line with that viewpoint when it comes to a post-apocalyptic scenario. However, the ending that Mr. Hillcoat and scribe Joe Penhall supply is one that sides with the son and speaks to the goodness within humanity. This is an ending I could usually get behind, but I do not feel that what precedes the ending allows said ending to feel justified. Mr. Hillcoat presents a bleak outlook for humanity and then goes against that outlook in an ending that comes across as disingenuous.

Viggo Mortensen is his usual strong self, and the cinematography is impressively dirty and ominous. The Road is a well made film with people behind the production who know how to make an interesting film. Somewhere along the way The Road loses itself, devolving into moments and foregoing becoming a cohesively strong film. I’m still very interested in John Hillcoat as a director, but while it was a good film I was disappointed by The Road and that is a darn shame.

Rating:

***

Cheers,
Bill

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