Viggo Mortenson’s on a highway to Hell

2009 * 15 * 107 mins * £19.99 * 17 May 2010
Also available on Blu-ray (£19.99)

John Hillcoat
Viggo Mortensen, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Charlize Theron, Guy Pearce, Robert Duvall

The end of the world is a mainstay of the multiplex but it moved into the arthouse with The Road, a sincere adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel that’s more concerned with cockroaches for breakfast and a warm place to sleep than alien invaders and global meltdown. You might get less bang for your buck, but Hillcoat’s apocalypse is no less mesmerising for placing human fragility before spectacle. It’s the feel-bad movie of the year.

Brace yourself, because The Road is a bumpy ride. An unspecified global catastrophe has caused the Earth to give up the game, animal life died out years ago and even forests of dead trees are releasing their grip on the desolated landscape. Doing their best to survive in a world without hope are a father and his young son, but with the remaining human population resorting to cannibalism and nothing but dark days ahead, it’s the most harrowing road trip since the M4 roadworks.

Relentlessly bleak, but profound and in many ways beautiful, the voyage through The Road’s utterly convincing wasteland is a raw, haunting experience but a rewarding one nonetheless. Mortensen and Smit-McPhee, both phenomenal, anchor the film with a cliché-free relationship that finds kindness in the midst of brutality – even when The Man is teaching The Boy the most efficient way to top himself.

Hillcoat’s poetic and spare camera captures a terrifyingly prescient future that doesn’t compromise its austere source  material, while Nick Cave’s elegiac score never overwhelms, only complements. The duo’s small victories pull you through (finding a can of Coke, for example) but the film won’t be to everyone’s taste and it’s hard to imagine you’ll ever want to watch it more than once. Even so, first time round the bend, The Road is an essential journey.


A decent commentary from director Hillcoat, two Making Of docs that are more promotional fluff than insightful, and a stills gallery. Jordan Farley