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“The Road” - {Blu-ray} - (Wayne)
Reviewer:
Wayne Klein
Studio: Sony Home Video
Genre:
Science Fiction
Release Date:
5/21/10
Special Features:

Audio commentary, deleted scenes, featurette, trailer, BD-Live features

Review:

Post-apocalyptic science fiction dramas usually focus on the struggle for survival within the context of violent action. “Mad Max”, “Escape from New York”, “The Road Warrior” heck even earlier cheesy films such as “The Last Warrior” or “Damnation Alley” (a bad movie adapted from a so-so novel by a terrific writer the late Roger Zealzny) and while there is action in “The Road” based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy (No Country for Old Men), it’s all focused on character. When disaster strikes Darwin’s law of Survival of the Fittest changes people into creatures that are no better than rats focusing on their own survival and a total loss of humanity and yet there are those who manage to survive and keep their sense of humanity—carrying “the fire”. ***

Director John Hillcoat (“The Proposition”)creates a realistic world for our characters and although we don’t know what created their world we really don’t dwell on it because the film focuses on the survival of humanity both physically and the conscience/compassion that separates us from other animals. Our hero (Viggo Mortensen) who seems ill travels across the United States to the coast with his young son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) after the loss of his wife (Charlize Theron)in the wake of a disaster that seems to have destroyed all animal life on Earth. They forage eating anything left over from the old world and, when necessary, crickets and other bugs that they find. Treading water in the wake of what appears to be a nuclear winter, the duo fight off cannibals who herd weaker people like cattle and others with their own mysterious often uncertain motivations such as the Old Man (Robert Duvall). Throughout the film nameless father tries to impart to his son the necessary tools of survival while the child seems to embody all of the lost elements that make us uniquely human. ***

Director Hillcoat does a good job of creating the environment with a relatively small budget by Hollywood standards ($25 million)but, more importantly, his cast creates strong performances that resonate with the viewer and will haunt you long after the movie is over. Hillcoat and screenwriter Joe Penham (the BBC TV series “Moses Jones” and “The Undertaker”)manage to compress McCarthy’s novel and uses cinematic short hand suggesting some of the evil people perpetrate against each other in the shadow of a dying world. All of these elements elevate “The Road” above your average end-of-the-world saga. ---

Image & Sound:

The dark, at times almost monochromatic photography more than evokes a mood—the look of the film is very much a character in the film. The post-apocalyptic world is portrayed in muted tones including grays and browns with most of the color including the natural skin tone bleached out of the film. This is marked contrast to the flashback sequences which begin with nice, colorful shots that positively pop but become increasing bleak as the film moves on. ***

Audio is likewise is somewhat limited but that doesn’t mean that the DTS HD audio doesn’t sound impressive at times—it does but we’re dealing with a subdued movie in a dying world. The soundtrack comes alive in sequences such as when the father and son discover a waterfall or when a series of trees topple under the weight of their own dead husks as the roots give way. ---

Special Features:

John Hillcoat’s informative and intelligent commentary track discusses everything from shooting on location at what remains of Mount St. Helens to working with his actors to create iconic but believable characters. ***

We also get a standard definition “Making of” of featurette that highlights everything from McCarthy’s book on the cast and crew to working with both Theron and Duvall to make what amounts to cameos as powerful for the audience as it their characters were on the main characters of our film. ***

Wrapping things up we get a theatrical trailer in high def as well as deleted scenes in standard definition which if they had been restored to the movie would have enhanced its power. BD-Live and MovieIQ options are also available online. ---

Final Words:

A powerful, moving movie “The Road” eschews the clichés of the post-apocalyptic science fiction films that we’ve been subjected to in the past by focusing more on the characters and their struggle to hold on to their increasingly fleeting sense of humanity as they try and reach a better place where the odds of survival might be higher. Recommended.

 

 
 
 
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