"The Road"

May 2010

201005_br_roadA Gritty View of Perpetual Winter Frames a Furtive Search for Humanity

Sony Home Entertainment 35287
Format: Blu-ray

Overall Enjoyment
****emptystar
Picture Quality
***1/2emptystar
Sound Quality
****emptystar
Extras
***1/2emptystar

Last winter, as the record-breaking snow piled up, it seemed that we might never see the sun again. Of course, we knew it would return, and the world would once again turn green. But what if the miracle of spring never happened and every gray day was followed by another? Would hope vanish?

The Road, based on Cormac McCarthy's novel of the same name, offers an idea of what life without spring might be like. We never learn the cause, but the earth has plunged into a dim, cloudy winter. The planet is dying, the skies are gray, and the vegetation is brown and rotting. A man (Viggo Mortensen) and his son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) plod down a lifeless road, pushing a shopping cart filled with meager supplies as they head for the coast. The situation is so grim, we’re told, that starving survivors have turned to cannibalism, and the man carries a gun with two bullets -- one for him and the other for his son. They won’t be eaten, nor will they eat people. The man tries to teach the boy that cannibalism is wrong and that they must maintain their humanity.

It’s hard to judge the video transfer for this Blu-ray. Director John Hillcoat has aimed for a limited color palette of gray, brown, and yellow, with an occasional orange glow provided by fire. Given that, the transfer is probably a very accurate representation of the theatrical release, though it seems soft in places, more like newsreel footage than feature film. The soundtrack, however, is very robust. The dialogue is often quiet and you'll need to turn up the volume, but the groaning of earthquakes and cracking of falling trees have a great deal of presence, and they accentuate the horrible events on screen.

Extras include an off-the-cuff commentary from Hillcoat, five deleted scenes, a typical back-patting production featurette, trailers that prove no one knew how to market this movie, and five trailers for other films.

This isn't a movie you'll want to rent or purchase for its technical wonders. It is worth seeing, however, for its disturbing, realistic message, as well as for the acting of Mortensen, who skillfully underplays the story. Smit-McPhee is also good, and he and Mortensen are a believable father and son.

Be sure to watch for: In chapter 10, the man and the boy encounter an old man (Robert Duvall). The ensuing ten-minute conversation showcases some of the best ensemble acting I’ve ever seen. Three generations, five-star acting.

. . . Rad Bennett
radb@soundstagenetwork.com

More SoundStage! Videos

  • PMC Fact.8 Signature Loudspeaker Review! (Take 2, Ep:11)
  • Which is Better? Elac Navis ARB-51 vs. Focal Shape 65 (Take 2, Ep:10)
  • Amphion for the Home, the Studio, and Billie Eilish - SoundStage! Talks (August 2020)
  • The NEW Hegel H95 Integrated Amplifier Review ! (Take 2, Ep:9)
  • Estelon: Loudspeaker Excellence and Originality from Estonia - SoundStage! Talks (August 2020)
  • Zero-Distortion Amplification: Halcro Out of Hiatus - SoundStage! Talks (August 2020)
  • Best Active Speaker? Elac Navis ARB-51 Speaker Review (Take 2, Ep:8)
  • Vivid Audio's Inventive and Spectacular S12 Loudspeaker - SoundStage! InSight (August 2020)
  • Qobuz Hi-Res Traction and Younger Listeners, with David Solomon - SoundStage! Talks (July 2020)
  • Schiit Audio Ragnarok 2 Integrated Amplifier Review (Take 2, Ep:7)
  • Schiit Audio Bifrost 2 DAC Review (Take 2, Ep:6)
  • Vinshine Audio: Kinki Studio, Magico, and More in Singapore - SoundStage! Talks (July 2020)
  • Focal Shape 65 Active Speaker is a Winner for Both Audiophiles and Studios (Take 2, Ep:5)
  • Audio Research's 50th Anniversary Products, Celebration, and Future - SoundStage! Talks (July 2020)
  • Get Closer to Your Music with the HEDD Type 07 Active Speaker -- Literally. (Take 2, Ep:4) #AMTfi
  • Back to the
  • Details on the Bowers & Wilkins 700-Series Signature Speakers - SoundStage! Talks (June 2020)
  • Totem Acoustic Skylight Speaker Review! Affordable Speakers with a Big Sound (Take 2, Ep:2)
  • Activities at Hi-Fi Super-Retailer Goodwin's High End - SoundStage! Talks (June 2020)
  • The Long-Term Investment in a Bryston Amplifier - SoundStage! Talks (June 2020)
  • PMC and the Flagship Fenestria Loudspeaker - 2019 SoundStage! Product of the Year Winner (June 2020)
  • Hegel H120 Integrated Amplifier Review. Living With It for the Past 3 Months! (Take 2, Ep:1)