The Road Review
Written by: vxtq
After a mostly unidentified catastrophe has left the world a barren shell of its former self, a man & his son are left to their own devices including minimal supplies, as they venture along roads, and wooded areas in search of food, and further supplies all the while trying to stay alive. The man (Viggo Mortensen) had a troubled wife who we sometimes see in flashbacks, but in the film's present time his number one priority is looking after his young son. It might seem like a slim plot, but the film packs a lot of emotion, and thought into its goings on. Some may wonder is this a horror film though, especially since it seems to have been mostly billed as drama. I think for the most part it does qualify as horror. Just because a film doesn't contain zombies, vampires, ghosts, or a masked killer doesn't mean it's not horror. This film contains multiple horror elements like the horror of cannabilism (a constant threat here) the horror of death, and possibly finding that end in fashions the average human doesn't have reason to thoroughly consider like our leads do here, the horror of continued starvation in a world short on food, and seemingly shorter on sympathy, as well as the horror of having to make snap choices in multiple f'd up situations.
This film has several big strengths starting with the production design. The trailer that I saw had several CGI looking images, but a lot of that seems to have been cut out in favor of a more practical (and I think much more effective) design of a world on the brink. Still standing yet dilapidated houses, neighborhoods, trees & such set the scene & tone very appropriately giving this fictional tale a visual reality. Acting wise Viggo Mortensen is very good in the lead. After the film I found myself pondering what is it about that guy that makes him so watchable. The two things that I honed in on were a certain "everyman" quality that makes him relateable, and an undeniable grit which was very much on display in the excellent "A History of Violence" & which serves him & the viewer once again here. As good as is he is in this, I thought Robert Duvall almost stole the film in a rather small supporting role. I didn't even recognize him at first, and during the very little bit of time we get to experience his character's thoughts, and words it all came off highly intriguing in terms of how his life & current situation have shaped this tattered human being and Duvall sells it with every second he's onscreen. The camerwork & direction were both mostly good, and the film ups the suspense level on several different occasions. I also enjoyed the high level of unpredictability throughout. I tried to guess the ending & was wrong.
My only criticisms are that the kid tried my patience/sympathy several times, and a couple of his lines/thoughts seemed beyond his age. On the other hand there were a couple things he didn't seem to know about that his dad had to explain, which I thought he would've known about by his age, although that could possibly be explained by the film's timeless (though not unimaginable these days) quality. I also felt more detail about the wife character would've been interesting, but perhaps the DVD release might have more of that. I could say the pace drags ever so slightly once in a while, but I never lost interest in the film.
Final thoughts: If you can get immersed in this rather bleak storyline, and you like to think about things in movies sometimes, there's much food for thought here. I won't say when but there was a moment during this film where I was almost crying which is a rarity. I think Dimension films made a major mistake not releasing this wide, as the Sunday morning showing that I attended was pretty packed. I know it's just my opinion but The Road is a lot scarier, and a lot more realistic than many more clearly defined horror films in recent years.