Who? Viggo Mortensen (vagrant), Robert Duvall (ancient), Guy Pearce (veteran), Charlize Theron (wifey), Michael K. Williams (thief)
What’s it about? It’s the end of the world once again in Hollywood. Except this time it really is the bleak, starvation riddled, survivalist reality one can barely imagine. Only the immense creative brain of writer Cormac McCarthy (No Country For Old Men) was able to envisage this harsh view of the possible future. Viggo Mortensen, sporting a scraggy beard and vagrant attire, pushes a cart of belongings about shattered and scarred grey America with his son – their only goal being to head south to warmer climates.
A back story featuring Charlize Theron as the suicidally depressed wife of Viggo appears sporadically as flashbacks in amidst the main tale - a story of dodging gun-totting red-necks while foraging for flecks of corn in old dried husks of barns next to dried up fields. All vegetation and animals are dead and cannibals are rife. Viggo’s gun, with just two bullets in it, is rarely alluded to as a weapon, as much as it is an escape route for him and his son.
What’s good about it? What caused the end of the world is never clearly explained. The clues of dead vegetation and animal life point to our own chemical waste as humans but it could as easily be a disease. The point is we don’t need to know, as focusing on surviving is all that matters – immediately dragging the audience into a world of necessity and pain. It appeals to every person’s deepest darkest thoughts at the end of the question ‘what if?’
The fact that Omar Little of The Wire (Michael K. Williams) plays a sickly-looking thief adds an odd skew on the reality of post-apocalypse earth, if you know his character in The Wire.
Some beautifully austere landscapes create breath-taking shots which make you forget the cinema around you and transport you into the world of apocalypse. Which is nice. Honest.
What’s bad about it? There’s not one joke in this film. There isn’t meant to be as it’s all about the pain of survival – the evasion of which we take for granted in our daily laughs. So, artistically it’s a good thing, but if you’re not in the right mood for this film it might not be for you.
Verdict: One of the best films this year (and last!). Bleak, painful, charged with emotion and philosophical questions about how far we have evolved from animals when our comforts are taken away. A must see.