Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5. USA, 2009. Dimension Films, 2929 Productions, Nick Wechsler Productions, Chockstone Pictures. Screenplay by Joe Penhall, based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy.Cinematography by Javier Aguirresarobe. Produced by Paula Mae Schwartz, Steve Schwartz, Nick Wechsler. Music by Nick Cave, Warren Ellis. Production Design by Chris Kennedy. Costume Design by Margot Wilson. Film Editing by Jon Gregory. Toronto International Film Festival 2009.
Following an unnamed, unspecified apocalypse, human kind has been reduced to a minimum number on the planet, and those that have survived live like savages. The shortage of food has turned some people into cannibals, and nowhere in the land is safe as human fear and paranoia has completely taken over any form of social interaction. At the centre of this nightmare is Viggo Mortensen and his young son, journeying towards “the south” for something better (and warmer) and clinging to each desperately out of need and a palpable sense of love. Cormac McCarthy’s terrifying novel has been adapted to the screen with wondrous results by John Hillcoat (The Proposition) in a film that creates a world in waste more effectively than Children Of Men did. It has moments where it threatens to go towards Hollywood genre (at one point I was afraid I was watching The Descent again), but for the most part it’s a heart-rending character study and a tribute to human emotion: even in a world where hope is so scant that the trees cannot grow, love is what propels people forward. Mortensen, whose cold eyes and hard stare usually keep him from being affable, has never been so effectively sympathetic; his desperation for his son, the only thing he has to live for at a time when people are committing suicide because they cannot believe there is any better option, is powerfully felt every time he grabs his child into an embrace. It’s an astonishing film on so many levels, though it’s also one of the bleakest and most depressing things you’ll ever see; I wouldn’t blame some audience members for being turned off by its grimness.