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The Road

the-road Most movies about life after the End of the World are, at their core,  somewhat wistful;  there may not be much food (or soap,)  but Post-Apocalypsia  is a place where Men are Men,  where Only the Strong Survive, where the Good are Gritty and the Bad are Horrifying.   There’s no room for moral ambiguity, and hesitation can get you killed.   Really, it’s the return of the Old West.   We are so desperate for a frontier to conquer, when there aren’t any left, we’ll re-create one through visions of mass destruction.   (Or invade Iraq.)

Leave it to a writer like Cormac McCarthy to throw some cold water on that fantasy.  Based on his Pulitzer Prize winning novel (which, when I read, I considered unfilmable,) the world in which Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee (who looks about 10 years old) live is really no different than the one Denzel Washington inhabits in “The Book of Eli;” in fact, this could be a weird spinoff about people in the corners of the frame of that film.  Chaos and destruction are everywhere; food is scarce; marauders rape and kill anything and everything they can; cannibalism is common.    It’s a great world to live in if you’re a blind swordsman with almost supernatural reflexes;  sadly, not many of us are, and the characters in “The Road” are more like real people than comic book superheroes.  “The Road”  centers around, strays from, and returns to one basic question: at what point is it better to be dead than alive?   When Mortensen and Smit-McPhee encounter the kind of men Washington would slice and dice, they instead hide in the woods, Mortensen holding his gun to the boy’s head.    The message:  I would rather kill you myself – quickly, painlessly – than let them kill you the other way.

Which makes “The Road” sound bleak and depressing.   Well, it is bleak.  But not depressing.   Because it answers that question (the one about what keeps you alive) in a way that is both relevant and powerful for us pre-apocalypsers;  it’s love.  Mortensen stays alive because he has a son to protect and provide for, and his love for this boy eclipses all the horrors the world has to offer.   “The Road” handles this carefully and convincingly;  there’s nothing maudlin or showy about this father’s love.   It’s simple, and real, and powerful.   And so, in a way, “The Road” is a much more encouraging and uplifting movie than all the comic book good guy/bad guy post-apocalyptic fantasies that Hollywood churns out.   I may not be a blind swordsman, but I am a father.  And I may not face marauding cannibal raiders, but I do face a daunting world full of morons, bureaucracy, misguided passion, and self-serving narcissism.   And, come hell or high water, I will do what it takes to provide for and protect my family.   What keeps me going?  It’s love.  Pure and simple.

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  1. Willie's wife said

    First, I love you and you are a fabulous father. Second, great review. Third, I love that you get political.

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