Apocalyptic Road Winds to a Hopeful Place
- Wednesday, November 25, 2009
DVD Release Date: May 25, 2010
Theatrical Release Date: November 25, 2009
Rating: R (for some violence, disturbing images and language)
Genre: Drama, Adaptation
Run Time: 119 min.
Director: John Hillcoat
Actors: Viggo Mortensen, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Charlize Theron, Robert Duvall, Guy Pearce, Michael K. Williams
Questioned in a recent Wall Street Journal interview about his views on God, Cormac McCarthy, author of The Road, which has been adapted into a high-profile, Oscar-contending film, said, "I have a great sympathy for the spiritual view of life, and I think that it's meaningful. But am I a spiritual person? I would like to be. Not that I am thinking about some afterlife that I want to go to, but just in terms of being a better person. … It is more important to be good than it is to be smart. That is all I can offer you."
McCarthy's answer is not surprising. Echoes of it can be heard in Sheriff Ed Tom Bell's comments, late in the adaptation of McCarthy's No Country for Old Men, when Bell says, "I always figured when I got older, God would kinda come into my life somehow. And he didn't. I don't blame him. If I was him, I'd have the same opinion of me as he does."
The movie version of McCarthy's The Road, a story of a father and son trying to survive after an apocalyptic event, paints a picture of humanity that shouldn't be surprising to those who embrace biblical teachings: Depravity is everywhere, but in the midst of it, a young boy is able to distinguish right from wrong and to see the good amidst outwardly bleak circumstances. Although God is discussed, he is never embraced, yet The Road shows the importance of the power of hope to overcome bitterness and cynicism.
Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee star as "Man" and "Boy"—a father and son on a journey. In voiceover, we hear the Man describe a past cataclysmic event that involved a "bright light" that stopped clocks. Ever since, each day is grayer than the one before. Armed with a map, the father and son are now journeying to a distant shoreline, trying to avoid cannibals, rapists and armed gangs who search for food and fuel.
The goal is less important to the Man than the daily task of watching over his son. "The child is my warrant," he says, "and if he is not the word of God, then God never spoke." With threats all around, the father carries a gun loaded with two bullets—one for himself and one for his son, whom he plans to shoot to spare him from any grisly fate that may befall the duo. "I'll kill anyone that touches you," he tells the boy, "because that's my job." However, the father wonders if, when the time comes, he will be able to bring himself to kill his only son.
The duo pushes on through fires and snow, their survival always at stake. Flashbacks reveal the reasons the mother is absent from the story: Fearing that starving survivors will rape, kill and eat them, she challenges her husband to take decisive action to prevent a fate she sees as inevitable. When the husband refuses, she literally walks out, never to be seen again.
If The Road sounds harrowing, it is, but amidst the darkness of the characters and their situation stands the Boy, who believes in his father's teaching that some people are "good guys," and who, at one crucial point, must remind his father of that very idea. A marvelous final few moments of The Road point to a reward for the father's perseverance in protecting his child.
The Road is a reminder of just how comfortable and protected our lives are, and how easily humans can revert to suspicion and distrust of their fellow man when deprived of the things they take for granted. Yet it also reminds us that people are made in the image of God (Gen. 1: 26-27), and that truth should guide our actions even in the most desperate of circumstances.
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