Friday, March 09, 2012

Seen It: The Road (2009)

With the recent success of The Walking Dead television show on AMC, as well as the comic books and trade paperbacks which serve as the source material for it, now seems a good time to revisit one of the more underappreciated movies of the past few years, The Road (2009). (Of course, the highly variable weather--60 degrees and sunny yesterday, 20 degrees and snow 24 hours later--has me thinking of the film's post-apocalyptic set-up...)

Adapted from the 2006 Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Cormac McCarthy (who also wrote No Country for Old Men) , The Road shares quite a bit of thematic DNA with Robert Kirkman's Walking Dead, even more so as the comic book's storyline diverges sharply from that presented in the television show thus far, and (SPOILER ALERT) ultimately becomes a dark(er) story of one man's journey with his son in search of some semblance of peace and normalcy in a post apocalyptic world. The Road offers no zombies as antagonists, but something far worse--regular survivors so desperate to eat or exert control that they'll readily succumb to their basest urges (a motif aped in The Walking Dead, too).

The film, starring Viggo Mortensen (The Lord of the Rings trilogy) and Kodi Smit-McPhee (Let Me In), is directed by John Hillcoat and opened quietly in theaters late in 2009. Like the novel on which is based (that is written from the perspective of Mortensen's character referred to simply as "the Man"), the film is as much more a survival movie than science fiction one, though the trailer might have you believe otherwise. I suspect that the film was kind of lost in release for a few reason, the chief being its meditative pace and a lack of a sun-shiny denouement. In many ways it reminds me of The Mist (directed by Frank Darabount--one of the artists behind the The Walking Dead show) in that both are, in my mind, high quality film adaptations of series novels from genres that often employ deus ex machina means of resolving plot lines neatly--something neither film does.

While the movie does take some liberties with the novel, such as adding some back-story mostly as a means, it would seem, of being able to include the star power and marketability of actress Charlize Theron as "the woman," a character created to offer back story for the man and the boy. Matching the novels power would be difficult, but the film does a fine job of drawing the viewer in until its gut-punch conclusion.

The Road (2009) is available on on disc from Netflix as well as at your local public library (in both book and DVD formats).

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