After a lovely Thanksgiving dinner, doesn't it sound nice to go to the cineplex and see a film starring a bunch of Academy Award-winning actors? Yeah, sounds great!
The Road, however, is the exact opposite of the warmth that is Thanksgiving. Unless you're a cannibal.
If you've seen a trailer for The Road, you know how bleak it looks. It does not disappoint in that regard. And with that bleakness comes something the advertisements don't tell you- this dark future is populated by human flesh-hungry predators. No, we're not talking about the mutated CGI monsters from I Am Legend, we're talking about normal human beings. Well, normal except for the fact that they hunt and devour other humans.
In the post-apocalyptic future, there is little to no food left. People are left to fend for themselves without the aid of government, and you never get to know why. It doesn't matter what happened, all that matters is that it did happen and it's believable. In a lot of ways, it's more interesting that we don't know exactly how the world came to a end. We don't know much, not even character names, but we do know that it's been a few years since whatever happened happened. There's no food left to eat, no animals left to hunt, and no crops left to grow. The world is literally dead. People have turned on each other to stay alive, and those that don't feast on the flesh of another are starving.
The scenario is very well done, from the drab cinematography to the gnarly, dirty makeup on the actors to the all to realistic entrails of half-eaten people. It's all too frighteningly believable, so much so that several people left the theater mid-film. In this aspect, The Road is nearly flawless.
Where The Road makes a wrong turn is the fact that even though the world is so disturbing and compelling, you don't really care about the characters all that much. Viggo Mortensen and his son, Kodi Smit-McPhee do a good job of reacting to the horrors of the dead future, and we see their relationship played out quite thoroughly, but director John Hillcoat can't help but hold the audience back at an arm's length. It's very odd, as all the ingredients are there to tug at your heart strings, especially towards the end.
But when it's all said and done, you're left feeling kind of empty. It's hard to say if this is a problem with the material or the direction, but I'm betting it's a little bit of both. No character names can sometimes make it difficult to relate to the material, but Cormac McCarthy's Pullitzer Prize-winning novel didn't seem to have that problem.
Well, at least the cannibalism is pretty effective, generating the most memorable sequences in the film. There's insinuated baby-eating, and a part where Viggo Mortensen stumbles upon a stable of soon-to-be-eaten man-cattle that react to his entrance like crazed zombies. Some tense moments of hiding from approaching predator people are also well-done, which leads one to believe that Hillcoat should stick to doing thrillers and leave the human stories to more capable sap-milkers.
Oh well, at least it was better than 2012...