The Road is exactly like I thought it would be. Although, I can’t say I’m surprised, given the bleakness of Cormac McCarthy’s prose. But maybe there is a lesson to be learned here: even if a book is a Pulitzer-Prize winning masterpiece, that doesn’t mean it will translate into riveting cinema.
McCarthy’s book was a rather odd phenomenon. A Man and Boy shuffle across a post-apocalyptic America, in constant search of food and in hiding from crazed cannibals. Although, the Father and Son’s story isn’t as thrilling as it is compelling. The text actually plays like a 300-page poem. It’s beautiful, transcendent, and undeniably powerful. But honestly, not a whole hell of a lot happens.
Director John Hillcoat’s adaptation puts Viggo Mortensen and newcomer Kodi Smith-McPhee in the roles of Man and Boy, with Charlize Theron popping up occasionally as the Wife/Mother in flashbacks. Right away, you notice that the film looks great. The barren, gray landscapes are captured seamlessly from McCarthy’s text. At times it’s hard to tell what shots are completed with special effects, and which are not, (always a good thing). But moving past that, we start to get into trouble.
It doesn’t take long to realize that Hillcoat is seriously amping up the terror factor in his film. The movie becomes more about surviving from the crazies, than it does about surviving in general. If I’m not mistaken, the Man and Boy only had a few brief encounters with people in McCarthy’s text. In the film, it is practically every other scene, which gets old pretty fast. Walk, find food, see scary people, HIDE. Walk, find food, see scary people, HIDE. Walk, find food, see scary people, HIDE. You get it.
Don’t blame the cast, though. Mortensen, an actor of impeccable range and devotion, is excellent in the lead role, as is Theron in her brief scenes. Even a slew of spirited cameos by Garret Dillahunt (Deadwood), Michael K. Williams (The Wire), Guy Pearce and Robert Duvall, help move the film along. But eventually, the movie reaffirms our belief about the book to begin with: that it is an unadaptable novel.
But maybe I’m wrong. Across the board critics are loving The Road. They are even hailing Smith-McPhee’s performance (which I found… annoying at times). I waited over a week to write this review, in hopes that the film would have some lasting power in my mind; that I would like it better than I originally thought. Well, I don’t. There isn’t enough wrong with it to make it a disaster, but there aren’t enough good qualities about it to make it great. It’s just… there. (Which does not mean I don’t want to see Viggo nominated). C