The Road

Rated 4.0

This adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer-winning novel, about a man (Viggo Mortensen) and his young son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) wandering through a glumly gritty post-apocalyptic world, might be more gray and brown than all the movies of the 1970s combined! That’s thanks mostly to Javier Aguirresarobe’s starkly beautiful cinematography, but stems also from screenwriter Joe Penhall and director John Hillcoat’s wholesale approval of McCarthy’s macho reticence: As cinematic cataclysms go, The Road is rather proudly the opposite of a Roland Emmerich film. And let’s call it the performance of Mortensen’s career, if only because he seems most in his element when a) greasy-haired, b) occasionally nude or c) both. It’s very much to his credit that the overall one-noteness of the thing absorbs more than it irritates. Small roles—for Michael Kenneth Williams, Guy Pearce, Robert Duvall, Charlize Theron—are like foodstuffs: precious, perishable, savored.