THE ROAD: The Film Babble Blog Review

THE ROAD (Dir. John Hillcoat, 2009)

Your eyes may roll when once again reading the phrase “set in a post apocalyptic world” and that this film’s release was pushed back several times (it was originally set for Dec. ’08) may be discouraging, but hold on because this film is an intensely moving and towering piece of work. While on the surface its bleak depiction of an ash covered world in ruins with death in every direction may be for many a grueling experience, in all the darkness a tiny light shining off a glimmer of hope can be seen.

That light is almost impossible to see at times for a man (Viggo Mortensen) and his son (Kodi Smit-McPhee), only credited as “Man” and “Boy”, in rags making their way through the rubble with a grocery store shopping cart and a gun that only has 2 bullets in it. We’re never told how this all happened, we’re only given a few flashbacks from before the devastation that present the Man’s wife (Charlize Theron) sacrificing herself for her family as the world seemingly comes to an end.

Mortensen gives a career best performance as the Man, a desperate but ferociously protective father tuned into every threatening tick of movement on the terrain surrounding him and his shaking but just as driven son. Every element they encounter might as well have “from Hell” attached to it. They hide in the woods off the road from groups of hunters or hoards of cannibals, they look for food in battered houses, they share dwindling provisions with a grizzled old Robert Duvall (the only character in the film given a name – Ely), and they just keep on heading towards the ocean.

This sprawling epic is the third film adaptation of a Cormac McCarthy novel (the others being Billy Bob Thornton’s ALL THE PRETTY HORSES and the Coen Brothers’ acclaimed Oscar winning NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN). Save for the expansion of the role of the wife, THE ROAD is extremely faithful to its source, retaining its scary tense tone with almost all of the spare spoken dialogue verbatim from the book.

It’s maybe the anti-“feel good” movie of the year (or the decade) but its strengths as a tale of survival and its powerful emotional pull will linger for a long time. The Man tells his son that they’re “the good guys” and that they will live through this. The Boy believes it and somehow in the face of the complete breakdown of society and all the anarchy of the wilderness we believe it too. THE ROAD may be a long tough one, but it does get to that glimmer and it really got to me.

More later…

9: The Film Babble Blog Review

9 (Dir. Shane Acker, 2009)

I have the feeling that future historians are going to think that we, or at least the film makers of our time, had a ginormous global death wish – what with all the post apocalyptic movie premises out there. And we haven’t even gone down THE ROAD yet either! So with another “world after war” weary setting comes the animated 9 – releasing conveniently enough tomorrow on 9/09/09 (mind you, this year also offers DISTRICT 9 and NINE). In the film though 9 isn’t a date, it’s the number given to a “stitch punk” – the ninth sentient rag doll made by a scientist (voiced by Alan Oppenheimer) as the world was on the brink of destruction.

After 9 (Elijah Wood) comes to in the home of the scientist he finds the other rag dolls (1-8) hiding in the rubble from evil creature-like machines that are hunting them through the darkness. This is not a movie that necessarily needs name actors to provide voices but they’re there – joining Wood as his fellow stitch punks is Christopher Plummer, Jennifer Connelly, Crispin Glover, Martin Landau, and seemingly the sole source of humor and warmth in the entire project – John C. Reilly (Reilly has what may be the one single funny line). 9 rallies the rag dolls to stand up and fight the tyrannical mechanical monsters, believing that he’s discovered the means and the meaning behind it all to defeat them.

Resembling a TERMINATOR movie as imagined by Tim Burton (who executive produced), 9 is too dark and scary for kids (hence its PG-13 rating) and it’s strained structure may be too dragging for adults. It’s too thin a narrative to even fill its short running time (79 minutes); it’s as if its only ambition was to be aestetically absorbing. Still, there are a few top notch action sequences and I adored one intensely striking scene in which the stitch punks find a phonograph and put the needle down on “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” for a brief relaxed interlude while the machines slowly approach on the horizon. 9 is an admirable effort on many levels, mostly in the high caliber of the animation, but ultimately comes off as cold and dystopian as the world our rag doll rebels are struggling to rise above.

More later…