Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Under 250: The Road

Cormac McCarthy's Pulitzer winning The Road, a book that has the added distinction of being perhaps the least Oprah-y Oprah books ever, gets an easy adaptation to the big screen.  The harrowing tale of a father (Viggo Mortensen) and son's (Kodi Smit-McPhee)  survival against the elements in a post-apocalyptic landscape populated by roving cannibals and devoid of new life, The Road takes a formula built by a million movies of the past (zombies, Mad Max, all of it) and transforms it into something surprisingly moving.  It's hard not to get caught up in the horrifying struggles endured by the characters, to wonder how they keep pushing forward, or why they keep moving.  Mortensen is fantastic, and the film pulls few punches when it comes to the realism and intensity of its scenarios. That is...until Smit-McPhee starts getting obnoxious.  A problem that was, perhaps, not as noticeable in the book, Smit-McPhee plays his character with a shaky lip and a constant whine.  He'a a boy born into the end of civilization.  He has never known anything else.  And yet, he has apparently avoided the quick onset of adulthood or any sense of reality.  As he cries and calls for his "papa", you have to wonder how any kid in his situation has avoided the collection of his own wits.  Smit-McPhee, in the film's final half hour, slowly obliterated the impressive progressive-build of emotional tumult and transformed it into something that felt like a cheap fable. The average viewer will likely remained touched, but for the cynical amongst us, prepare to revel in the film's destructive beauty even as you curse the casting of its figure of hope.

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