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An ailing father and his son travel toward the sea in a post-apocalyptic United States. As they evade cannibalistic gangs and fight to survive the unforgiving elements, the father tries to protect his son, teach him right from wrong, and preserve a sense of hope.
For more about The Road and the The Road Blu-ray release, see the The Road Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on May 30, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Charlize Theron, Robert Duvall, Molly Parker, Michael K. Williams
Director: John Hillcoat
» See full cast & crew
The Road Blu-ray Review
'The Road' is more than its bleak setting and minimalist story might otherwise suggest.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, May 30, 2010
When you dream about bad things happening it shows you're still fighting, still alive.
Stop for a moment and think of everything that modern man takes for granted.
Does the list include things like running water, fresh food, air conditioning, satellite television, and transportation? Probably. How about those things that came before, that preceded fresh food and satellite television, those things that made them possible? No, not just farming techniques, preservatives, electricity, or even rocket science. How about innovation, drive, vision, and courage? Even more base than those, how about encouragement, generosity, friendship, and love? Everything can be boiled down to several base elements. Man is more than the sum of the satellites in the sky, the meat in the freezer, the gas in the car. Even if it's no longer readily apparent, he's about those things that deep down, from within, that make the world what it is, good, bad, and ugly. But man can, and arguably has, reached a point where technology, the fast-paced environment in which he lives, and the ease with which he can acquire goods of such a quality -- a quality that even a century earlier would have seemed like science fiction, like a utopia that could never exist, where life could never be so easy, and it is easy, on a fundamental level -- could be taken for granted, ignored, forgotten. Forget deadlines at work, forget getting the kids to baseball practice, forget that urgent text message. Stop and think about how easy life really is, but remember all those things that go into the innovation, production, delivery, and consumption of fresh milk, worldwide communication, or medicine. Now imagine that in the blink of an eye, it's all gone: the products, the means of creating them, the desire to better them. What's left? The shell of a society to be sure, but what would exist beyond the inoperable cell phone, the worthless computer, the dead garden, and the decrepit home? Is there enough of that innovation, drive, vision, and courage to make it all, someday, work again? Is there enough encouragement, generosity, friendship, and love to even get any rebuilding effort off the ground? The Road, directed by John Hillcoat (The Proposition) and based on the novel of the same name by Cormac McCarthy (No Country For Old Men) imagines a society with nothing left but hints of what once was and the survivors that will shape its future state. In a cold, dead world with no rules, no right, no heart, and no hope, a father and his young son must maneuver through a dangerous landscape that could lead them to death or salvation, not because of where it is they're going but because of how they acquit themselves on the road towards the future they must help shape through their ability -- or lack thereof -- to keep alive those base and non-tangible ingredients of encouragement, generosity, friendship, and love.
The clocks stopped at 1:17. Nobody knows how or why, but 1:17 on some past date was the last time the world ever existed as it once was, a colorful, living, happy place. The colors are faded, life is gone, fear has replaced happiness, and irrational behavior has broken man's moral compass. It is a world powered not by electricity, automobiles, and mass communication devices, but instead with muscle, will, and the barrel of a gun. It's a world where the most important rules dictate that those who wish to survive must keep their heads down and their mouths quiet, lest they be killed by those who have lost their humanity. It's a world where cannibalism has run rampant, where it's every man for himself, except for one. A father (Viggo Mortensen, Appaloosa) and his son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) have lost everything but one another. Their survival in a shattered world depends on their ability to stay out of harms way and not place themselves in danger for the sake of a bite to eat or the chance to make a friend. They must acquire what goods they can, when they can, no matter what they are, no matter where they're to be found, so long as it's safe to do so. Armed with a revolver and two shells, the father has taught his son how to commit suicide with the weapon should the need arise; they can trust no one but one another as they head for the East Coast in hopes of finding something -- anything -- that could help in their efforts to survive.
Simply put, The Road is a beautiful film. Director John Hillcoat pulls off the impossible, creating a film packed with meaning, constructed with grace, acted with dignity, and scored to perfection, all set opposite one of the bleakest, most depressing environments ever captured on film. The Road is about as melancholy as a film may be while still retaining a purposeful narrative. Superficially, it's about the absence of hope, order, and earthly goods and the resultant chaos; below the surface yet readily apparent to the audience, it's a tale about the search for friendship, the power of dreams, the gratitude for the smallest of miracles, and the bonds of love. There's very little of a traditional plot to The Road -- it's mostly a film that shows two people wandering through a desolate landscape -- but the movie never plays as dull because it finds a deeper purpose in every scene, no matter how bleak and bland, no matter how stagnant or untraditional. It's gripping cinema because it gets to the core of the human condition form the outset, examining everything from fatherly love to childhood naiveté, from the most basic of survival instincts to the most encouraging generosity. The Road is an adventure of the soul and not the body; it's not a post-apocalyptic film in the traditional shoot-em-up sense but rather a contemplative journey of the mind and soul in a world where there's nothing left but tears and the bond between father and son.
In lesser hands, The Road would fail, but the picture's cast and crew have crafted a masterpiece of minimalist cinema that's more about what's below the surface rather than on top of it, a theme and style that's obviously been taken to the extreme but with exemplary results. A dead world, suicidal thoughts, and nothing but a glimmer of humanity all shape the journey towards whatever it is that destiny -- if it even still exists in a world as fruitless, barren, inhospitable, and evil as this -- has in store for them. It's a world that's sometimes as clearly-cut as good versus evil, but at other times it's far more complex. It's a world where a can of Coke is a luxury; where two bullets and a functioning gun seem like the final answer and a fitting farewell to a nasty world rather than a mere survival tool; where finding even a hint of good, decency, understanding, hope, and compassion isn't the exception to the rule, it's a one-in-a-million luck of the draw; and where the environment stinks not only of the dead and dying but of utter despair and regret, all lingering about and often overpowering those unfortunate enough to survive another day, granting them more time to contemplate all that was, the nothing that is, and the likelihood that tomorrow will hold nothing better than today.
The Road accentuates all of its themes through its wonderfully-realized post-apocalyptic set design. Few pictures are as convincing as this, and for as simple as it may seem to shoot around barren roads, dead trees, and crumbled buildings, the filmmakers have captured not only the purely visual cues required to sell the story, but the feelings that come with the greater perception of what it all means. It's an area where other films fail and The Road succeeds, this film capturing the feel of a world brought to its knees and through means that stretch well beyond its look. Also defining The Road are the stunning performances of its two lead characters. Both Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee disappear into their roles like few actors can; one might think that it wouldn't be hard to act underneath layers of filth, tattered clothes, and an overgrowth of hair, but the performances are in the eyes. Mortensen mesmerizes with a performance that's as seamless as they come, one that shows despair and fading hope with every look, but at the same time demonstrating not only verbally but also physically an undying love for the welfare of his son, whether that means finding him a can of Coke or instructing him how to place a bullet in his brain. Kodi Smit-McPhee, however, delivers one of the most moving child performances in years, maybe the best and most sincere since Lucas Black's effort opposite Billy Bob Thornton in Sling Blade. Rarely can an actor of his age and experience -- or of any age and experience -- so effortlessly convey a sense of wonder, fear, love, and tenderness on this scale as Smit-McPhee; it's a performance that will linger long after the film ends. Both actors were denied their rightful spots among the finalists for the Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor Oscars.
The Road Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Road travels onto Blu-ray with a 1080p, 2.35:1-framed transfer that's, frankly, a bit hard to judge. Thick halos are visible in some shots; for instance, a cluster of dead trees that are seen during the film's opening voiceover look like they're glowing, and the effect remains here and there throughout the movie. Otherwise, Sony's high definition transfer is a thing of wonder in every other area. In the few bright and colorful scenes that open the film, viewers will marvel at the intricate detail on delicate flowers and roughly-textured brick walls, and while the picture immediately shifts to a rotten, gray, dead visual tone thereafter, the transfer marvelously captures every nuance amidst the deliberately weathered and worn visuals. Details are readily visible even under these conditions, whether the scuffs on a well-worn pistol, the texture of a stuffed animal, frays in tattered clothing, scraggly facial hairs, and even pores and wrinkles underneath untold amounts of caked-on dirt and grime; Sony's 1080p transfer delivers an extraordinary amount of information even through the deliberately lifeless visual scheme. The color palette is limited at best; grays, blacks, and browns dominate the transfer, and even brighter objects -- a dusty red can of Coke -- appears terribly faded but intentionally so. Through all of this, black levels amaze. In several scenes they might absorb some of the finer details, but in a picture that's overwhelmingly dark and harsh, there's little room to complain. Flesh tones reflect the dusty and worn look the picture employs. The print is free of unwanted dirt and debris, and it's coated with a light sprinkling of grain. The Road's visual tone and Blu-ray presentation is reflective of the film: this is an ugly picture, but it's also, for the most part, lovingly reproduced on Blu-ray. The apparent edge enhancement is cause for concern, but it's the only real problem in an otherwise spectacular release from Sony.
The Road Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Road winds onto Blu-ray with a high quality DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack that does well to aurally place the listener in the midst of the decayed and unwelcoming world the film creates. There's no shortage of surround activity; rain falls about the listening area in several scenes, crackling fire engulfs the soundstage in another, gusting winds blow through the speakers, and imaging across both the front and the back is splendid, with sounds placed just so but also traversing the listening area with ease. The track captures the entire gambit of sound, from the smallest of atmospheric nuances to the rumbles of an earthquake, the latter delivering a potent amount of bass that's tight and aggressive but not mushy or undefined. For the track's several more powerful and pronounced moments, there are many more that are quiet, contemplative, and reflective of the lifeless atmosphere. Like the video quality, the sound design often creates an absence of information to further reinforce the death and destruction that has left but a shell of a world once full of sound and life. Dialogue, too, can be sharp or subdued, with a few quieter lines a bit hard to hear, even at reference volume. Overall, there's little room for complaint; Sony's has once again delivered a wonderful lossless soundtrack that suits the movie well.
The Road Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Viewers may traverse a few more miles of The Road thanks to a decent supplementary section. First up is an audio commentary track with Director John Hillcoat. Though he admits to being a commentary novice, Hillcoat does an excellent job conveying a broad swath of information regarding the film. He speaks on shooting locales, special effects, voiceover work, his concerns with shooting certain scenes with a child actor, the performance and professionalism of Kodi Smit-McPhee, working with Author Cormac McCarthy, safety procedures on the set, and much more. This is a top-flight commentary and a fine companion to an already excellent film. It's a must-listen. The Making of 'The Road' (480p, 13:47) features cast and crew speaking on the picture's themes and emotion, the work of Cormac McCarthy, the performances and dedication of the cast, and the work of Director John Hillcoat. BD-Live functionality; MovieIQ connectivity; five deleted and extended scenes (480p, 6:38); two trailers for The Road (1080p, 2:32 & 2:29); and additional 1080p trailers for Youth in Revolt, Unthinkable, Chloe, Nine, The Last Station, Legion, and A Single Man are also included.
The Road Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Incredible tension, unspeakable acts, hard decisions, lost hope, uncertain futures, unlikely generosity, and unending love: these are the dramatic and thematic realities of The Road, realities that both paint a bleak picture but also capture an amazing spirit of survival not only of the body but of the individual soul and, by extension, mankind. An under-the-radar masterpiece that for some reason didn't gain the recognition it deserved either at the box office or at the Oscars, The Road is a must-see films not only for its excellent performances, first-rate production values, and strong direction, but for its ability to capture such an uplifting spirit of good amidst so much that's unspeakably bad. No doubt about it, The Road is a tough watch but it's also a journey well worth taking. Sony's Blu-ray release of The Road sports a mostly great 1080p transfer while also featuring a strong lossless soundtrack and a few good extras that will leave viewers wanting more. The Road comes highly recommended.
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The Road Blu-ray, News and Updates
• The Road Announced on Blu-ray - March 22, 2010
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has announced the Blu-ray release of the Weinstein Company production The Road on May 25. This post-apocalyptic tale, based on a novel by Cormac McCarthy, earned wide critical acclaim, especially regarding the performance of Viggo ...
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