+++ Opinion +++
The gigantic popularity of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy made world stars out of a few actors who had hitherto been at best mediocre and gave them a great deal of work in the years that followed. For me, one of the best films by one of the cast members of the fantasy saga is “The Road” – a very authentic mix of an exciting apocalyptic or survival thriller, a varied road movie and a touching father-son drama.
Caution: This is anything but light fare. “The Road” is not horror in the classic sense. Nevertheless, you can have plenty of fear for almost two hours: revolves around the unnamed main characters, Viggo Mortensen, the Aragorn from “The Lord of the Rings”, and Kodi Smit-McPhee (“Planet of the Apes: Revolution”, “Let Me In”), who was only eleven at the time of shooting be presented credibly.
The film is currently included in the subscription to the Prime Video channel superfresh, which you can test for 7 days free of charge if you are already an Amazon Prime customer:
» “The Road” on Amazon Prime Video*
Alternatively, you can of course also get “The Road” home as a DVD or Blu-ray:
» “The Road” as Blu-ray or DVD at Amazon*
Years after an unspecified global environmental catastrophe, a man (Viggo Mortensen) and his son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) travel on foot through completely desolate and bitterly cold North America. They want to go south, where supposedly there are still green landscapes. They push their meager belongings in front of them in a rickety shopping cart, constantly looking for something to eat or at least a semi-safe shelter for the night.
In doing so, they must be constantly on their guard; especially the few other humans who survived. Because most of them have banded together to form murderous gangs and do not even shy away from cannibalism. In this environment, the father desperately tries not only to protect his child, but also to teach him humanity and morals—values that he himself has had to repeatedly abandon in order to keep himself and him alive since the boy’s mother (Charlize Theron) gave up and chose suicide.
The first heartbreaking scene comes right after a few minutes. In it, the protagonist explains to his shocked offspring how the pistol he always carries with him and in which his last two cartridges are located, works. The weapon is not for hunting. Because animals are also almost completely extinct. Rather, the projectiles are intended to be able to kill yourself quickly and painlessly in a hopeless situation.
The film, which also delivers various similarly emotional plus powerfully exciting moments afterwards, is based on the novel by one of my favorite American authors: Cormac McCarthy (“No Country For Old Men”), which was published in German under the title “Die Straße”. Like me, fans of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book will be delighted at how closely The Road follows the original. For example, various dialogues have been taken over verbatim.
Director John Hillcoat and his screenwriter Joe Penhall (“Mindhunter”) certainly benefited from the fact that the book is relatively straightforward and short (256 pages). Thus, not too much of the plot had to be cut or simplified – as is the case with a lot of other literary adaptations. The filmmaker, whose brilliant anti-Western The Proposition had already impressed me, manages to create an atmosphere that completely captivates the audience.
Chief cameraman Javier Aguirresarobe (“Thor 3: Day of Decision”) correspond almost exactly to how I imagined the story in front of my inner eye when I devoured the novel in just two evenings.
» The book template “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy at Amazon*
“Are we still the good guys?” the teenager asks his dad at a particularly emotional point after a hair-raising experience. He replies immediately, almost a little too quickly: “Yes, that’s us!” Judging by his eyes and the son’s facial expressions, both are anything but sure that this is really the case. It is precisely this ambivalence and the question of which actions are ethically justifiable or mentally bearable in order to survive that is what makes “The Road” so appealing to me.
Anyone who is not afraid of being touched inside and even days later thinking about what they saw and almost physically experienced will enjoy this heartbreaking story full of desperation and fear, but also love, courage and dignity and will not forget it again. It’s clearly Mortensen’s film. The mostly rather short appearances of “Memento” star Guy Pearce, Hollywood veteran Robert Duvall (“The Godfather”, “Apocalypse Now”), Molly Parker from the “Lost In Space” revival and the always entertaining Garret Dillahunt (” Deadwood”) and Michael K. Williams (“The Wire”) plus of course Charlize Theron in flashbacks and dream sequences enrich it enormously.
By the way: If you look at the film, which was shot in 2008 and was released in local cinemas in 2010, it becomes clear how much the makers of the zombie hit series “The Walking Dead’ served again and again at ‘The Road’. This ranges from the oppressively gloomy basic mood and recurring moral dilemmas to entire storylines such as the father/son dynamic or regions terrorized by gangs. Individual motifs ranging from philosophical-looking graffiti, spooky ghost towns or deserted highways full of wrecked cars to visual aspects such as special camera settings appear almost 1:1: The impact of The Road on the super popular TV franchise is all too obvious to me.
Filmed on real locations in the US states of Pennsylvania, Louisiana and Oregon, fans of the series should definitely see the work. Likewise people who like “Children Of Men”, “The Book Of Eli”, “I Am Legend” or the classic “The Omega Man”. Whereby all of these are much more dynamic and/or lurid than the slowburner, which is mostly cleverly slowed down and consistently grandiosely melancholic. “The Road” gives the audience time and space to empathize and reflect. Precisely because this is immensely easy despite the apocalyptic scenario, the film got under my skin and still does.
This is a re-release of an article previously published on DashFUN.
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