Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Road ain't entertainment by any stretch of the word.

The Road is a brutal, gut-wrenching, punishing, grueling endurance test. It isn't entertaining by any stretch of the word. It has moments which make The Texas Chainsaw Massacre feel a frolic in the park. It has many more moments which make The Road Warrior look like a lite B-Western. It is a relentless high-tension experience.

I checked my watch about 300 times during the course of those 2 hours. I wanted to know how soon it would be over. If I had not been with other people, I would have walked out. When it was over, I said "Thank God it is over." This is a movie you can respect (in the end), but not a movie you can enjoy or like.

What is it?
  • It is a film adapted by a highly-awarded novel by Cormac McCarthy, the fellow who wrote No Country for Old Men.
  • It is a post-apocalyptic story
  • It is a father and son story
  • It is a survivalist tale
  • It is a road-trip movie
  • It is a literary experiment, designed to put a question to you, as it attempts to make a full disclosure.
The Road takes place in a post-apocalyptic environment. A mega-disaster has happened, ending the human epoch on the face of the Earth. The planet is going through another great-dying phase in its existence, not unlike the one that killed the Dinosaurs or the one that ended the Cambrian epoch. What caused this mega-disaster? The film makers do not say, but I am certain (given McCarthy's time and place) that it was nuclear war; probably carried out with neutron bombs. The film makers do not say it was nuclear war, because few of us still fear nuclear war. Instead, I am sure that the film makers would like you to map your fears of 2012 on to this film.

The movie follows Viggo Mortensen and his son as the travel down the road to the South. They have to move south. The bitter cold of nuclear winter has made their rural farmhouse in the North untenable as a dwelling place. As they travel down the road they face all manner of terror, starvation, cannibalism, paranoid humans, suicidal moments etc.

So what is the point of all this then?

Suppose for one moment that you had survived the mega-disaster that had killed 95-97% of the human race outright in one shot. With all of human civilization undone, what would your reality really be like? Would you be blessed or cursed by your survival? Would you be prepared to do what it took to survive in that world? Would your daily existence in that environment be worth the struggle & horror of what you would have to endure to survive? This is the literary promblematic Cormac McCarthy wanted to work out. This is the question he wants to put to you. As he puts that question to you he wants to make it absolutely clear how horrible it would be. It is horrible indeed.

In the end the answer has to be "No." I cannot imagine anyone but Ed Gein saying "Yes". Knowing that, you have been warned about the contents of this movie.

The Road is not a poor quality movie. Rather, you have to awestruck by the power & craft of the film makers and cast who put this movie together. They have formidable skills, and they worked hard on this film. However, the result is a movie so dark, so terrible, so horrifying, so brutal, so depressing, so ugly, so devastating, so grim that you are left with one question: Should this movie have been made? Was this a proper creative goal for film makers to aspire too?

The film makers would probably argue that they were trying to make Nuclear War unthinkable. Like Dr. Strangelove, The Road is intended to scare the BeJezus out of you.

Certainly, many people felt that this book could not be converted to a movie. They could not imagine a movie like this doing well or being well received. It would also need an NC-17 rating. CARA was generous and just gave them an R rating.

The Road is expected to contend at the 2010 Academy Awards. We are just now entering the prestige phase of the calendar year, so unless something comes out soon, I would expect it to sweep. Most of the other films out at this point are non-contenders. This eventuality will prove that the Academy Awards have nothing at all to do with entertainment.


I just discovered the video review of The Road. Lest you think I jest or exaggerate, why don't you have a good look at this. I am glad that we are of one mind on this subject.