by WAYNE JOHNSON from CANADA
I must admit that I did enjoy this movie. I had recently finished the book and was extremely surprised that it moved me (the book) as much as it had. This was my first experience with Cormac McCarthy’s written word. I had viewed NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN some years back but had not made the connection.
I must begin with my impressions of the book THE ROAD. The experience was completely unexpected. My wife had purchased the book as a Christmas present for me. I would have never bought the book as I make a rule to avoid the movie / book combination as one of the two consistently disappoints in my case. I tend to watch most movies with Viggo Mortensen therefore I had consciously decided to take the movie version of THE ROAD as opposed to the book. So…there I was with the book and plenty of time. I said what the heck and plunged in. The event was certainly worth the time.
THE ROAD (book) is dark, gloomy, terrifying at times, sad always, and almost without hope. How does McCarthy accomplish this? He plays on our individual imagination concerning the unknown but absolutely possible - something that has been in the background of our existence for 70 years. The nuclear holocaust and life (or some version of it) thereafter.
Getting back to the movie. As is typically the case for most and always for me – the movie never lives up to the book. No change in this circumstance, however I must admit it was a satisfying attempt.
The movie THE ROAD was almost as dark, gloomy, terrifying, and sad but just did not quite match up to the book. The actors for the most part suited the characters and my vision. Mortensen was excellent while the child actor playing his son was OK. It would have been a tall bill for any great and accomplished actor to carry off the degree of fear, hunger, fatigue, and loneliness that boy must have felt. Charlize Theron was a welcome surprise. In the book, the mother plays a small but crucial role and I think the selection of such a great actor to play this minute but pivotal role was fantastic. We see a bit more of the mother in the movie than in the book but it works well.
What I enjoyed the most with this movie was the context. It is what it is! The director shows you what is happening and essentially you are left alone to make up your own mind. No innuendo or implied messages. All the survivors, cannibals or “good guys,” are doing what they have to do to endure. The director and McCarthy are not judging them. They are just showing us what is occurring. There is almost no attempt to pull at heartstrings or to illicit emotion for or against a character. The script and the screenplay are stark and very frugal.
Mortensen’s character is a study within the movie. At the outset, we see what appears to be the consummate dad. The father who would do anything to ensure his son has the best chance at survival. These attributes would logically lead someone to believe the father would always do the right thing and take the morale high road. Not the case. Mortensen’s character will do anything…anything….to ensure his son lives to see another day. This anything entails deserting those in need of help, sharing only under extreme duress, threatening a man’s life who had robbed them, and finally and ultimately killing two men who had threatened his son.
The movie is not absolutely true to the book as is usually the case. In the book McCarthy describes a scene where the father and son come across a mother who had roasted her newborn for meat. I guess that vision was too extreme for the big screen.
In conclusion a good movie and well worth the effort in my case. I do not know if this assessment would have been the same if I had not read the book previously. There are few words in the movie and when they are spoken they are usually quiet or whispered. To have a grip on the context via a read of THE ROAD prior to the movie experience would be my recommendation.