MSRP: $27.96
RUNNING TIME: 111 Minutes

    * Director’s Commentary
    * Deleted and Extended Scenes
    * The Making of The Road
    * Theatrical Trailers
    * Previews

The Pitch

Fallout 3: We Forgot To Put Quests In Edition

The Humans

dir. John Hillcoat

Viggo Mortensen, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Robert Duvall, Guy Pearce, Charlize Theron

The Nutshell

Set after an cataclysmic event turns the world into a desolate wasteland, devoid of plant life, animal life, and the light of the sun, a father and son (Mortensen and Smith-McPhee) make their way across the country in search of civilization.

He had a choice: death, or take the kid to see the new Shrek movie. He chose wisely.

The Lowdown

Quoth Jodie Foster: A poet. They should’ve sent a poet. Because The Road exactly that: living, breathing, moving poetry. That’s more a statement of fact than anything else. John Hillcoat’s film has a lyrical quality to it that feels less like an adaptation of prose than attaching words and images to someone’s ambient post-apocalyptic concept album. Like, if Sigur Ros made a post-apocalyptic concept album.

I wish I could judge the film in the same way. If it was an album, I’d be able to point out which individual tracks are worth your valuable time downloading from ITunes, and which ones to skip. But as a film, The Road has a habit of keeping the viewer under an extremely oppressive blanket of desolation that only peeks to see daylight once, maybe twice. And oppressively bleak is one thing, but monotonously bleak is another entirely, and a film set in such a dead, lifeless place needs the respite, or even the new depths to sink to. As it stands, The Road is just a slow burn that fades out rather than leaving any sort of deep, lasting scars.

Most of America called it the apocalypse. Detroit residents called it “movin’ on up”.

And yet, I find it impossible to say it was a bad film, or even that it isn’t worth seeing, or even owning. Aside from a bit of dialogue at the tail end that gets a bit too on the nose for a film so mired in subtleties, the film is still a compelling view. It sets out to create a mood, a portrait of a time and place and specific situation, and Hillcoat succeeds. His cast is strong. At this point, it’s not surprising Viggo Mortensen is an engrossing actor, but he walks a thinner line here than he has in a while, playing a moral hypocrite with a heart of gold. Smit-McPhee has taken some heat for being an annoying little snot at parts where bloodshed is impossible, and I genuinely think the people with that complaint have never really been around kids long enough. The performance feels like a real boy confronted with these issues, and in the only way he knows how, he is trying to hold his father by his words when his actions don’t match.

The day eventually came when the World’s Most Interesting Man discovered JD. He was last seen scrawling “Fuck Beer” into the fist-battered hide of a polar bear with a fossilized archaeopteryx feather.

The three non-Mortensen name actors share top billing, but they’re really just cameos that stand out just because the rest of the human presence is so very sparse. The brief encounter we have with a nigh unrecognizable Robert Duvall is a great one, a moment of human honesty and clarity that should’ve signaled a change in tone, or ramped to a climax, but never does. Guy Pearce shares top billing, but his role as a really dirty Cletus the SlackJawed Yokel at the end is important, but really doesn’t amount to much.

Charlize Theron’s where things get thematically tricky, though. Her one big scene–of a mother making the decision to leave her family and face the apocalypse alone–comes and goes early, and she handles the complexity of that decision well. We hate her, rightefully so, but there’s just the right mix of regret to make us understand it, at least. The problem is, for the rest of her screen time, she’s a marital aid. Her sexuality is what Viggo seems to remember about her, and little else, which undercuts the emotional attachment Viggo has to his wife towards the start and a line Viggo says later on about dreaming about good things being a sign that you’re in trouble. If the sex is really the only thing you can conjure about your relationship, you were in trouble a long time ago.

The really tricky thing is that I think a more human element might shatter what John Hillcoat was trying to create with this thing. It’s a film without a depth, a subtext, or a high concept. It simply is. The Road isn’t there to engage you in a dialogue, or make you empathize, or take you on a ride. It simply confronts. It’s a window to look in on human nature stripped bare for 2 hours, and it’s importantly a window one should peek through at least once.

Seen here: The first post-racial jack ever recorded. Change has come to America indeed.

The Package

John Hillcoat’s on his own for the commentary. It’s dry, and Hillcoat struggles to fill time, but he mostly keeps things insightful from end to end. For those wondering, he does address the fetus-on-a-spit scene everyone won’t shut the fuck up about from the book. Oddly, the scene was filmed, but isn’t on the DVD.

Even sadder, since the rest of the stuff in Deleted Scenes were definitely cut for a reason. They add nothing. The Making Of is pretty standard. A couple of repeated anecdotes from the commentary, and the most unintentionally awesome pose/title moment you’ll see on a featurette ever, but not bad as far as EPKs go, and you do get a bit of Cormac McCarthy hanging out on set with his own kid, and even without hearing them, you can tell where so much of this story came from. After that, the two theatrical trailers, and a whole mess of trailers for other Oscar bait. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

8.0 out of 10