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The 365 Best Films of the 2000s

Heroes of the Zeroes: The Road

Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000-2009.

“The Road”
Rated R
2009

As an unexpectedly uplifting parable about faith, kindness and fatherhood at world’s end, “The Road” transcended sad, gray post-apocalyptic tropes.

John Hillcoat’s 2009 adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel repurposed the refrain of “Nearer, My God, to Thee” to fit its own biblical, bloody terms. But that didn’t mean a watering-down of McCarthy’s hangman prose. Like “Children of Men,” this adaptation carefully transposed violent, firelight horrors onto a larger canvas, grappled with tough questions and avoided nihilistic wallowing.

After an indeterminate apocalypse, survivors roam a cold earth nearly bereft of animals and crops, seeking food however and wherever they can. Many have become cannibals, but not the Man (Viggo Mortensen) and the Boy (Kodi Smit-McPhee), his son born into this wasteland, as they travel to “reach the coast.”

The Boy is the Man’s lone light — a child whose birth he encouraged against the wishes of a now-absent mother (Charlize Theron). Denying him would deny all beauty that once existed.

Mortensen’s stoicism masks a terrifying hypothetical: If necessary, can he kill what he willed into this world? Meanwhile, Smit-McPhee channels a child’s terror and confusion over grim absolutes: If the Man dies, carry on or put a pistol in his mouth.

As the Man’s protection imperative hardens his heart, together they face the quandary of whether it’s truly good to simply avoid evil.

In its tranquil climax, “The Road” offered beautiful metaphors for deliverance from childhood and the importance of parental flaws in imparting critical values, regardless of good intent or harmlessness.

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6 Responses to “Heroes of the Zeroes: The Road”

  1. Michael Donley says:

    Too funny…I kind of liked this movie, but my wife was ready to pull an Elaine in "The English Patient."

  2. Lisa Davidson says:

    It was just too nihilistic for me to get anything positive out of it!

  3. Lance says:

    I got the chance to watch this movie about 2 weeks ago and I’m not exactly sure how I feel about it. I guess the best thing I could come up with was "Eh…s’ok". There were really good parts to it, but I personally have an issue with characters that do really dumb things that jeopardize their survival and that happened a lot here. Kinda depressing, but I guess it had to be.

    Eh…s’ok lol.

  4. Nick Rogers says:

    Joe: Agreed. I’ll never understand the dump tactic on this film.

    Angie: Glad you enjoyed it … or at least as much as one can *enjoy* "The Road." Thanks for reading!

  5. Angie Steimel says:

    This movie had my emotions all over the place! The decisions that had to be made in order to survive were truly gut-wrenching.

  6. Joe Shearer says:

    I watched "The Road" on my oldest son’s first day of school, and it really affected me. The scenes where he’s preparing to kill his son are really heart-wrenching from both his and the boy’s perspectives. It was a tremendous film, and it’s really a shame it was buried the way it was. Had I seen it in time, it would have been high on my best-of list for the year.