the feel bad movie of the year? I simply cannot wait.


Cheer up son. It's not the bloody end of the world. Is it?

I am a massive fan of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road (and while you’re at it “No Country for Old Men” is a beast too).

Anyway the movie of the book opens on Jan 8 here in the UK.

Here’s an early (fairly mean)review from NYC. It currently 8.4’s on IMDB.

Doomsday sagas have never been far from our collective American imagination, but they’ve rarely been closer. The end-of-the-world cult of 2012 (Mayan calendar, solar neutrinos, bad vibes from the planet “Nibiru,” etc.) will only fatten its membership in the wake of the idiotic movie of the same name. Throw in (likely) environmental catastrophe, worldwide economic collapse, peak oil, Al Qaeda with Pakistani nukes, Obama the Antichrist, a zombie-cannibal plague, and apocalypse is in the air, la-la. Now comes the starkest doomsday movie yet, The Road, from a novel by Cormac McCarthy, our priest of high-toned despair. McCarthy will never get over the end of the Age of Good Men (which never existed, but don’t tell him that). He has staked his career on the idea that we’re entering a time of humanity in extremis, one in which chaos is ascendant and cannibalism, literal and metaphorical, is the rule, not the exception. The road of The Road is paved with literal cannibals. But it’s also a metaphor for the blind imperative of a father, “The Man” (Viggo Mortensen), to keep his son, “The Boy” (Kodi Smit-McPhee), both eating and uneaten.

What brought about the blinding flash that ends civilization? McCarthy isn’t telling, and neither are director John Hillcoat and screenwriter Joe Penhall. Project on this disaster what you will. (See the list above.) The dying world through which father and son trudge is monochromatic—faded browns, grays from sooty to milky, an occasional splash of dark blood. Green is history. Bare trees tumble. Fires spring up. Human bones dot the landscape. There was once a mother, “The Woman” (Charlize Theron), whom we see in The Man’s dreams, but her maternal instincts fell (strangely) by the wayside. Only The Man persists. “The child is my warrant,” he narrates. “If he is not the word of God, then God never spoke.” It might have been Darwin who spoke—but let’s not go there.

On its own grueling terms, The Road works. It brings you down, down, down, and its characters’ famishment is contagious: Your heart leaps at the sight of a can of peaches. Mortensen, bearded, smudged, greasy-haired, has a primal, haggard beauty. He lectures his son on the need for “the fire inside,” and that’s what we see in his unblinking eyes as his body wastes away. He clutches a gun with two bullets and teaches The Boy to put the barrel in one’s mouth and pull the trigger—the thinking being that a quick death is better than slow starvation or being eaten. But that’s a last resort. Mostly he uses that gun to threaten and/or blow away anything that imperils his son. What’s odd is that although The Boy never knew the brotherhood-of-man era, he pleads—in a voice that hasn’t broken—to share their food and trembles with grief when his single-minded father remains unswayed by his humanism. Yet the father doesn’t mock his son: Part of him must want to keep The Boy a boy. “Are we the good guys?” his son asks again and again, as if chanting in prayer. “Yes,” says The Man.

The movie has a dogged integrity. An inept thief (Michael Kenneth Williams, the magnetic Omar from The Wire) seems too pathetic for The Man to punish but is cruelly punished anyway. When Robert Duvall totters on as “The Old Man” (a guest-star survivor, akin to the guest-star hillbillies in Cold Mountain), we think they might adopt him as a surrogate Gramps. But The Man sees him only as a drain on their food, and The Old Man gets the drift without being told. What a tough, smart actor Duvall is. The Old Man seems enfeebled, perhaps senile—until Duvall gives you glimmers of his caginess. Affecting frailty is a survival mechanism, too.

Evocative as it is, The Road comes up short, not because it’s bleak but because it’s monotonous, and because McCarthy’s vision is finally as inflexible as his patriarchal hero’s. (Having Mom lurch off is quite an evolutionary statement.) That said, the author-hero of 2012 (John Cusack), who wrote a book in which humans cling to their goodness on the brink of extinction, seems boobishly naïve. The truth is likely somewhere in the middle. But unlike these overeager doomsday fanatics, I hope never to find out.

harry brown


Ah. So that's what the bloody state pension pays for.

The movie is set in The Elephant and Castle where I, as a 17 year old, went to a strip joint in a well dodgy pub during a visit to London. If I’d have seen this film beforehand I’d not have gone within a mile of the area, never mind into its seedy interior.

Apparently Michael Caine is from “The Elephant” so this was probably quite a nostalgic road trip for him. In the movie he plays a vigilante gradually becoming more and more determined to avenge the brutal murder of his old mate (fast on the heels of his wife’s death) at the hands of a bunch of local scum who terrorise the neighbourhood.

This is no ordinary vigilante movie and, although I haven’t seen it, it must bear considerable comparison to Grand Torino where another fine actor in his latter years dominates a movie.

The casting is wonderful and the thugs that terrify the local community are entirely believable. But from start to finish this is Caine’s movie. He plays his part with massive pathos. We feel deeply sorry for him as, first, his wife and, then, his only chum pass away leaving him quietly tormented and then incredibly angry as he learns that his mates death was mockingly filmed on a mobile phone to the accompaniment of raucous laughter.

The brutality of this movie is searing and really shocking at times.  The riot scene is entirely believable, which is difficult to achieve on a low budget but certainly hits the spot.  It plays an important central role in undermining the police and showing them off as the useless and uncaring force that director, Daniel Barber is keen to establish .

Two things make this movie a real stand out; Caine and the pacing of the action.

It starts brutally slowly and gradually winds up in pace and tension but never to Hollywood proportions.  Don’t forget that Caine is a pensioner! Amazingly it holds your belief throughout – not an inconsiderable achievement in a genre that tends to become overblown and ridiculous.

I expect Michael Caine will get a BAFTA nomination for this (at the very least). He might even win because his performance is stunning. I certainly hope so.

His best performance? Arguably.

A great film?  Definitely.