The post apocalyptic world has been a movie staple since the 1950s and many of the themes dealt with in this movie have been covered before, however until now they’ve never been found within such a believable setting.
This a world devoid of life and colour, a frozen wilderness where mankind has returned to its atavistic worst. Within this landscape Man (Viggo Mortensen) and Boy (Kody Smit-McPhee) are travelling south, on their way attempting to find sustenance and avoid roving bands of hunters seeking the only plentiful supply of meat – human flesh.
Man desperately fights his own desires and maintain the idea within his son that he’s “one of the good guys” but as the food runs out and the situation worsens it becomes increasingly difficult to square the moral circle.
This is such an unrelenting environment that the flashback scenes, featuring Charlize Theron as Mortensen’s wife, and the one or two moments of joy the characters are allowed only serve to throw their descent into hell into sharp relief.
Mortensen has never been better, an actor often accused of lacking emotion here his reserve is used as a wall to protect his son, but when he does break down the effect is truly heartbreaking.
This is not a masterpiece, despite being visually stunning it never truly escapes its literary roots. The inclusion of well known faces in cameo roles takes focus away from the story and although he’s not the typical Hollywood moppet McPhee’s Jiminy Cricket like conscience does eventually grate.
This is a brave, exhilarating and brutally honest depiction of humanity in extremis. Mortensen is totally believable from beginning to end as a desperate father fighting the world and his own inner demons to protect his child and John Hillcoat has made a film where the moral arguments can play out against a terrifyingly realistic background.