Monday, January 11, 2010

Review - The Road

Thought I'd get this in before the WGA announces their nominees later on in the day.

One of the mysteries plaguing me this awards season is the lack of love for John Hillcoat's The Road, a solid film that is better than the indifferent critical reception suggests.

In a world having been destroyed by an unknown catastrophe, where cannibal gangs roam the streets and frequent earthquakes topple whatever trees remain standing, a man and his son fight for survival on their quest to reach the coast. Is there an end there that they're supposed to meet, or is this journey merely for the sake of having a reason to stay alive?

Viggo Mortensen gives a very good performance as the man whose number one mission is to protect his frightened son from the “bad guys”, but has become so paranoid and suspicious that he's lost all compassion towards his fellow man. Over the course of the film, a role reversal takes place between the man and his boy, where he becomes the protector and moral guide, not unlike Vittorio De Sica's The Bicycle Thief come to think of it. It is a heavy and slow-moving story, episodic in structure, that has been mismarketed as a thriller. It has such moments, but they are tactfully brief so as not to overshadow the subtle character development.

Two thumbs way up for DP Javier Aguerisarobe and production designer Chris Kennedy, who have gone to great lengths to ensure that nary a blue or green can be found in the film's ashen post-apocalyptic settings, except for in a handful of carefully composed shots. They both deserve, but are not likely to get, Oscar nominations. There is a chance makeup department head Toni G could be in the running for realistic and story-serving work, and rightfully so.

*** out of ****

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