Review: Is The Road a Good Movie?

The Road is a post-apocalyptic movie about a father and his son, who are traveling south in the United States after some type of global devastation wreaks havoc on planet earth. The storyline never explains what exactly happened that caused all the destruction, but it was most likely a natural disaster of some sort, because earthquakes are occuring periodically and most animals and plant life have been wiped off the face of the earth. For some reason, humans survived this ordeal, but they are few in numbers and many are starving, while others have turned to cannabilism. The movie is a film adaptation of the book by the same name, written by Cormac McCarthy. The movie stars Viggo Mortenson as the father and young Australian actor Kodi Smit-Mcphee. Charlize Theron plays a very small role as the mother who they both have memories of after she dies. It also has a small guest appearance by Robert Duvall, who plays an old man who has also survived the near-apocalypse. I rented this movie the other night and mostly enjoyed it, but there's a few things that irked me about it, mostly in the storyline. So I decided to write a review about it, but I must warn you, there's probably going to be a few spoilers in my review. So if you haven't seen it yet, you may want to think twice before reading my opinion on it.

Storyline & Characters
In the film, none of the characters have names. Everybody just refers to each other as "son","poppa","old man", and "hey you there". As odd as this sounds, I never noticed it until I sat down to write a review and tried to recall their names. As the father and son duo are heading south, they encounter all types of people along the way, and most of them are not not "good people". It seems that after the world had this catastrophic event happen, it left very few good people left, while it's mostly bad people that roam the earth, often in packs. This isn't to say that there aren't a couple decent people left here and there, as the main characters do encounter some occasionally, but they are definitely few and far between. Many of the bad people who travel and live in packs are, as I stated before, cannibals. They seem to have no morals whatsoever, as they have no problem stuffing live people into rooms and keeping them there like cattle. There are a few graphic scenes that involve cannabilism, which is most likely why this movie was rated R. I'm a grown man and still found some of the scenes pretty disturbing. So I would classify this movie as borderline horror, though it's mostly drama or adventure. One thing that bothered me about this movie, is how the people in packs don't appear to be related in any way, and as evil and amoral as they are, they seem to refrain from eating each other for some reason. This part of the movie didn't make sense, but then again, if some movies made sense, they'd be pretty boring. So I guess it worked for what the author, writers, and director were aiming for, since the general plot of the movie is already far from realistic as it is.

Viggo Mortenson's character as the father is teaching his son all the ways to survive once he's gone. The two were left alone when the boy's mother walked out on them and commited suicide by purposely walking into the woods alone at night, knowing she would die if she did so. This was probably one of the strangest methods of suicide I've ever seen in a film, and this scene occurs early on in the film as sort of a starting point for the whole journey and an explanation as to why they are alone. The father is also trying to teach his son about morals and he continues to try to educate his son about the differences between good people and bad people, reinforcing his son's beliefs that they are the good people. Though it seems that his son also teaches him a few things about the topic as well, since Mortenson's character seems to have a habit of turning a blind eye to other people they come across on the road who are in need. There's more than a few scenes where the father takes pointers from the son, though sometimes the son can be quite naive and wants to help people who may not necessarily be good.

The setting for the movie is perfect for the storyline. Though it's supposedly set in many different states, and was filmed in Louisiana, Oregon, and Pennsylvania, it's hard to tell which state they are in because everything looks ravaged and destroyed. The only indicator that they are headed south, is the southern accents you can hear from some of the people they encounter. One note of caution though: If you're a depressed individual, such as a manic depressive type person, you should definitely avoid this movie. Even a positive person can become depressed after watching it, because the dreary backdrop is very realistic and believable. Much of their travels takes place on empty roads, though a lot of it also takes place in the rugged woods. There's a few scenes where they walk into abandoned homes in search of food and other items they can use while on the road. Food seems to be their highest priority, as it's very scarce and they are pretty close to starving to death, while eating bugs and whatever they can find. There's a few opportunities for them to eat other humans, even bad guys, but the father continues to stress the importance of being good and explaining why good people never do that, even when they are starving. Though, it seems that he is just telling his son this to avoid any chances of hindering the progress of moral teachings. I think that if it came down to it, the father would probably eat another person if he was absolutely starving and that person was already dead or was a bad person.

The acting is phenomenal, though the main reason I say that is because of Viggo Mortenson. This isn't to say that Kodi doesn't hold his own as well, but it's kind of hard for a child to compete with an adult that has been acting for over 26 years. If you're not familiar with Viggo, or never saw movies like The History of Violence and Appaloosa, this is a great introduction to his acting skills. He's totally believable as the loving father that only has his child's interests at heart. Kodi's acting is great too, and he plays the "I'm a cute little kid but can still be annoying and whiny sometimes" role well. There was a few times where I felt sincerely sad for his character, having to go through such tragic situations at such an early age. But at the same time, there was a few times where he really started to get on my nerves with his whining and naiveness. Robert Duvall's character has such a small role, and they didn't give him much to work with in regards to his lines. He's basically just an old man that is close to dying, so if you're expecting him to wow you in this movie like he may have in the past, don't hold your breath. Charlize Theron's role was pretty basic too, but she played it well, though it's probably the one character in the movie who is least memorable.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I give this movie a 7. It's better than average, though it could have been much better with a few things added and taken out. If you liked movies like Book of Eli, 2012, and The Day After Tomorrow, then this movie makes a nice addition to any End of the World collection. For those who enjoy drama and violence, this movie has a fair share of both, though younger viewers may become bored with it's lack of action. There is a few exciting action scenes, but the drama of the movie greatly overshadows it and makes the film much more reliant on storyline and acting, than on expensive CGI effects and explosions. If you haven't seen The Road yet and you're into dramas, you should definitely pay a visit to your local Redbox or Blockbuster.

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