BluRay/DVD Reviews


By • May 31st, 2010 •

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When THE ROAD came out, around Christmas time last year, it quickly acquired the moniker “The Feel Bad Film of the Year.” Oddly enough, that wasn’t a slight. There’s at least one of them every year’s end. Why that is eludes me. But a few past title recipients are: THE READER, REVOLUTIONARY ROAD, YOUTH WITHOUT YOUTH, THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS, THE GOOD SHEPHERD, THE SEA INSIDE, MONSTER, and THE HOURS.

‘Post Apocalyptic’ is a genre. It existed before the Atomic Bomb, but proliferated after the drop. There are also ‘Apocalyptic’ genre films, in which you are there for the fateful event. Romero’s LIVING DEAD installments (particularly LAND & DAY), its predecessor and remakes – THE LAST MAN ON EARTH, THE OMEGA MAN, and I AM LEGEND, Stanley Kramer’s ON THE BEACH, FIVE, Harry Belafonte’s THE WORLD, THE FLESH AND THE DEVIL, PANIC IN THE YEAR ZERO, THE BOOK OF ELI, THE STAND, Roger Corman’s THE DAY THE WORLD ENDED, THE TIME MACHINE(s), DAMNATION ALLEY, WAR OF THE WORLDS(s), DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS(s), BLINDNESS, WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE, THINGS TO COME, Kevin Costner’s THE POSTMAN and WATERWORLD, T4,Chris Marker’s LA JETEE and its remake, Terry Gilliam’s 12 MONKEYS, PLANET OF THE APES(s), 2012, Ralph Bakshi’s WIZARDS, AKIRA, CHILDREN OF MEN, SHAUN OF THE DEAD, DAYBREAKERS, MIRACLE MILE, THREADS, Peter Watkins’ THE WAR GAME, ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, THE QUIET EARTH, THE DAY AFTER, CLOVERFIELD, The Nuclear War trilogy DOCTOR STRANGELOVE, FAILSAFE, and THE BEDFORD INCIDENT, ATOMIC WAR BRIDE, THIS IS NOT A TEST, L.Q. Jones’ A BOY AND HIS DOG (from the Harlan Ellison story), etc….. Forgive me if I failed to mention your favorite.

But the point wasn’t just to illustrate examples of the genre – it was to suggest how difficult it is to make one that has something really new to say. And I don’t think THE ROAD has anything radically new to say in an expansive way. What if offers that is new is its characterizations and its details. This is a somber, grueling study of fatherhood in a bleak new world. In the film, that new world, inexplicably, just arrives. In that undefined way, it could be a world that is encroaching on us even as we sit watching our DVDs. Perhaps it won’t be this bad in twenty years, when our children are almost grown, but it will at least be somewhere in between where we are now and where THE ROAD suggests we might be.

So THE ROAD is, as I see it, a cautionary tale with no solutions offered. Viggo Mortenson is up to the rigorous task of the narrative, portraying a dying man protecting his son and trying to educate him while leading him on a quest to a gray, uninviting ocean that serves as a metaphor of…what? Kodi Smit-McPhee is adequate as his innocent son, slowly getting up to speed in this harsh environment. The DVD sleeve quotes a review that praises Charlize Theron. Really? Was she in the film? I give her credit for taking such a brief, thankless role. It suggests she believed in the film’s artistry, and in novelist Cormac McCarthy. Robert Duvall is unrecognizable, and very good. The supporting players all live up to their assignments.

I guess what lingered in my mind about THE ROAD since I caught it theatrically last year is its look. I think it’s possibly the ultimate Digital Intermediate film that has been produced to date. I cannot think of an exterior long shot that hasn’t been profoundly influenced by the new digital coloring technology, and every one of them is superb.

Director Hillcoat apologizes right off the bat for feeling unequal to the task of providing a good commentary track. And apparently he knows his limitations. It’s a faltering, dreary commentary, not without its insights, but difficult to endure. I was fascinated to learn, however, that they went to 50 different locations, including Mt. St. Helens (near the opening), New Orleans after the flood, Pittsburgh, etc. And all in Winter. Tough on the actors, who clearly took it as inspirational.

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