Wednesday, January 13, 2010

THE ROAD / ***½

Distributor: Weinstein / Dimension
Release Date: November 25, 2009
Genre: Drama / Thriller
Running Time: 119 minutes
MPAA Rating: R

Two years ago, the Coen Brothers’ adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s “No Country for Old Men” dazzled critics (94% fresh rating on and audiences (over $74 million domestic take) alike. It wound up taking home four Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay for the brothers Joel and Ethan Coen, and Best Supporting Actor for Javier Bardem. So even though I haven’t read any of McCarthy’s books (they’re on my list, I swear), I eagerly awaited the next McCarthy adaptation. Then when I heard John Hillcoat, who directed one of my favorite movies in recent years, “The Proposition,” I was even more excited.

Unfortunately, “The Road” has failed to capture the same kind of attention “No Country” garnered. It has a 74% rating on, which is very good, but it’s not attracting any awards talk. The box office total stands at just over $7 million. I know they are two different movies, but coming from an author like McCarthy, comparisons are inevitable.

“The Road” is a post apocalyptic tale that drops us into the world after the apocalypse, with no explanation as to what happened, or what year it is. These facts are actually irrelevant to the story. We meet a Man (Oscar nominee Viggo Mortensen) and a Boy (Kodi Smit-McPhee). They trudge through the wasteland every day just trying to survive. In flashbacks we meet a Woman (Oscar winner Charlize Theron), and see the end of the fractured relationship she had with the Man and the Boy.

Along the way, Man and Boy come across vandals who want to harm them. Man’s primary goal is protecting the Boy, and he will go to any lengths to do so. They also encounter an Old Man (a nearly unrecognizable Robert Duvall) and a Veteran (Guy Pearce).

These interactions are suitably tense, and the mood of the movie is suitably gloomy. I greatly admired the construction and tone of the movie for being true to itself. However, I felt an emotional disconnect from the movie that kept it from being a truly great movie, rather than a very good one. The performances were all terrific, but I never felt that there was something greater at stake, or a greater end to arrive at.

Theater: AMC Oakview 24, Omaha, NE
Time: 250 pm
Date: December 20, 2009

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