(MA) Viggo Mortensen, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Charlize Theron
After America (and possibly the entire world) has been razed by an apocalyptic event, one man and his son brave hostile, deadly wastelands in search of survival and salvation.
With cannibalistic drifters and opportunistic desperados everywhere, the protective father and frightened boy struggle along a dangerous highway to meagre hope.
What sounds like the scenario of yet another zombie schlocker is the lean, breathtaking premise of The Road. Set to be one of 2009’s great movie achievements, Australian director John Hillcoat’s incredible adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer-Prize-winning novel emphasises several of the source material’s most provocative themes.
Rather than delight in the horror or violence inherent in a dying society reduced to primitive rubble, The Road is a stark, moving tribute to parental protection and the importance of faith in the face of crippling adversity.
“Cormac is very intrigued by grace under pressure and a higher spiritual element than man,” Hillcoat told Christianity Today, as he confirmed McCarthy’s only stipulation for the movie was that it had to include as many of the novel’s references to God as possible.
The Man (played expertly by Viggo Mortensen) frequently mentions “God”, always suggesting that the existence of his son points to a higher power’s continued presence in the decaying world around them.
Instructing The Boy (exciting Australian actor Kodi Smit-McPhee) about how they are “the good guys” and to always “keep carrying the fire (inside)”, The Man’s obsessive and self-sacrificial devotion to his son’s safety often approaches a religious intensity.
However, it’s a bit rich to suggest McCarthy’s bleak fable has Christianity woven through it. While Hillcoat compares The Man and Boy’s situation to the Book of Job, prophet/messiah characters do pop up, and the finale is oddly uplifted, The Road skims the surface of a corrupted creation relating to The Creator.
Instead, it focuses more heavily upon what every human being can be distilled down to: self-preservation, fear, love and hope.
Depressing yet mesmerising, The Road largely sticks to its guns and doesn’t attempt to sanitise this walk in the valley of the shadow of death. If you are up to it, take this psychological journey into the core components left over when people have almost everything taken from them.
Ben McEachen is the Senior Editor of Empire magazine, attends Christians in the Media church, Annandale, and is a regular contributor to Insights.