You might want to read the book and skip the film.
Dir: John Hillcoat
This is the third book of Cormac McCarthy’s to be filmed after All The Pretty Horses and No Country for Old Men-- neither of which did either book full justice. Here we go again then with more of the same – a respectful adaptation of a terrifying post-apocalyptic novel with the terrifying bits chopped out. Vigo Mortensen plays a nameless man crossing a ravaged Southern U.S. landscape with his ten-year-old son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) after an unspecified environmental catastrophe has destroyed mostly everything - except for the ‘bad guys’ whom they're trying to avoid. Filmed in near monochrome (the only real color is when Mortensen recalls his past life) and with far too much emphasis on ambient noise, conversations are often muffled and imprecise. McCarthy’s book detailed with sickening precision the idea and execution of cannibalism in such a torturous existence. The film swerves away from this aspect, merely hinting at the possibilities and horror. Instead it concentrates almost entirely on the father/son relationship and its inevitable disintegration. Time and again they come across abandoned houses with secrets held inside. In one, a basement is full of naked prisoners, presumably being held as a future food source. When the house's occupants appear it makes for the only really disturbing scene in the film. Of course father and son escape; there’s a film to complete here!
The final scene is the main cop out. It’s as if the filmmakers suddenly realized they’d run out of money and just slapped on a contrived ending. The finish is not dissimilar to the book, but it lacks the novel’s philosophical energy and exploration. The idea that life may be renewing itself again was perfectly discussed by McCarthy, but here it’s dismissed in a two-minute scene of such contrivance that it spoiled what fragile momentum the film had built.
I can’t share the adulation and praise this film has gathered. It’s acted well, there is some effective cinematography (apparently some filming was done in New Orleans), and the plight of father and son and the occasional person they meet is well detailed, but it lacks the effective horror of the novel. The film would be better served as a TV serial, a form from which it borrows stylistically.