Daily Archives: December 20, 2009

Apocalypse right now

Film review

In “The Road,” Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee (above) play a father and a son fighting to survive in a barren post-apocalyptic United States of America where they always are in danger of being hunted by bands of cannibalistic hunters (such as depicted below in another still from the film).

The Road Movie by John Hillcoat

If you’re prone to suicidal ideation during the holidays, then don’t go see “The Road,” one of the bleakest films that I’ve ever seen, but if you are able to gaze into the abyss, as I am (which is why I’m a blogger…), then “The Road” is for you.

“The Road” is a post-apocalyptic tale of a man (Viggo Mortensen) and his son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) who travel south to warmer climes after some unspecified apocalypse — the aftermath of the election (probably stolen…) of Sarah Palin or her ilk as president, I like to think — has occurred.

“The Road” leaves lots unexplained and has lots of potholes in it, though. In no certain order: It makes no sense how so many humans could survive an apocalypse that even the vegetation and the vast majority of animal life couldn’t survive. Is it really practical or even possible to push a shopping cart along all kinds of terrain? How does the boy have such a strong sense of right and wrong when he was born into the apocalypse? How does the apparently half-blind old man fare as well as he does when the able-bodied, fully-sighted younger man struggles to survive? How do we see a healthy-looking dog at the end of the film when the humans are even eating each other? Wouldn’t any scraps of food that the dog’s owners manage to get go to them rather than to the dog?

There are other holes that I’d divulge, except that it would ruin key parts of the film, which, despite all that it doesn’t explain and all about it that doesn’t make sense, is worth seeing.

The scenes of cannibalism, including the few-and-far-between surviving humans hunting other humans for their meat — and yes, the hunters appear to be the kind of people (survivalist nuts) who would vote for Sarah Palin — are strewn throughout the movie, and most viewers will find these scenes disturbing, but, it seems to me, we Americans cannibalize each other (so to speak) every fucking day. We use and abuse each other without a second thought, and we casually dismiss it business as usual. Everyone does it, right, so what’s the problem? The only reason that we don’t literally cannibalize each other — yet — is that we have such an abundance of fast food, it seems to me.

So to me, “The Road” could be seen just as much as an externalization of the spiritual decay of the common American that exists today as it can be seen as some cautionary tale. The gray wasteland of “The Road” already exists in the United States of America, it seems to me — interiorly, with the exterior only needing to catch up to the interior. Even at this late hour that probably still is preventable, so yes, “The Road” can be, and should be, seen as a cautionary tale as well.

“The Road” also made me think repeatedly of the homeless people within our midst. I live in downtown Sacramento, where homeless people who look like the characters in “The Road” are fixtures. How can we call ourselves civilized when we allow such misery? It’s easy to see how our savagery could indeed lead to something like we see in “The Road,” where we, instead of the homeless people whom we see every day (and take as just a given), are the ones pushing the shopping cart along bleak terrain — if we survive at all.

Which raises the question of whether, when and if the shit ever really hits the fan, it would be worth trying to survive at all. In one scene in “The Road,” Charlize Theron, who plays the man’s wife and the boy’s mother, tells the man that she doesn’t want to just survive.

Which is something that I’ve always wondered about the survivalists, and what you keep wondering as you watch “The Road”: what in the fuck are you surviving for?

Is there more to life than just surviving? Is it only about staying physically alive as long as possible?

That’s the main question that “The Road” asks.

See it and ponder the question.

My grade: B+

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