Cormac McCarthy’s The Road is a book everyone I’ve talked to has read, yet I’ve never seen anyone reading it. This might be the ultimate compliment for a book as it consumes the reader’s life, so they do not reenter society until they have completed it. I have not read the book. After seeing the movie I shall put it on my mental queue.
The Road (not to be confused with Fellini’s La Strada) is the story of a nameless man and a child trying to survive a post-apocalyptic world. No animals or vegetation have survived. Canned foods and other humans are all one can eat. They must avoid earthquakes, fires, and most of all other humans. No one is trustworthy. Humans are cannibals, thieves, or sniveling cowards. Yes, this just might be the feel good movie of the year.
In it Viggo Mortensen continues his hand to hand combat with Christian Bale to be this generation’s angst ridden action hero. He does it all. Loses a hundred pounds, grows a straggly beard, strips naked to swim to a wrecked ocean liner, even shoots a no good scoundrel. He is in every scene of the movie, save one, and carries its tortured tone throughout.
The Road belongs to the growing number of films about rugged individuals trying to survive a dying world. The genre probably starts with Charlton Heston in The Omega Man, continues with the Mad Max movies, was perfected in 12 Monkeys and keeps going with Children of Men, Blindness, The Mist, and I Am Legend.
But the movie The Road reminded me most of was the 1988 animated flick, The Land Before Time. This tells the story of a brontosaurus named Bigfoot who pals up with a bunch of other orphaned dinosaurs. They are trying to find The Great Valley, a land that according to legend is filled with life. The Great Valley seems like a fairy tale because the rest of the world is one of death and exploding volcanos. The end of the movie is happy. They reach The Great Valley which is lush and filled with promise. You are supposed to leave the movie with a smile on your face. But how can you? You know what is in store for them after the credits. The dinosaurs are all going to end up dead.
If you stay through the credits of The Road and keep your ears open, you hear sounds that maybe there is life and hope for humanity. It’s amazing how one ounce of positivity can overcome the previous two hours that show us where humanity is most probably headed.