The Road

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The Road Reviews

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He is one of the few actors who can tell a story with his eyes, and these are eyes so full of pain. It is the best kind of acting, pure and honest. - John Foote

The Road Reviews

Mortensen - an intriguing man, serene and philosophical - spoke during our interview with such tender sincerity about the two characters and their unremitting and inexpressibly vital bond that it seems clear that he has invested a large but vulnerable part of his soul into his performance. I don't care that this sounds indulgent because there is something about this film, this novel, something so pure, so intrinsically human that forces one to shove aside smart-arsed scepticism and just marvel - humbled - at so crucial and compelling a message.

Dan Hollis
15 May 2010

Mr. Mortensen gives him a gaunt grandeur--it doesn't hurt that the actor's face can evoke paintings of Christ without a muscle being moved--and an emotional spectrum that is muted but remarkably wide, considering the character's plight and the author's spare style. The man's young son, terrified by a cataclysm he can't comprehend but still capable of sweet optimism and kindness, is played by Kodi Smit-McPhee. Between the two performances there's not a false note.

Joe Morgenstern
Wall Street Journal
26 November 2009

The movie resides not in descriptive language but in the eyes of his protagonists. And there the film finds its unique identity. If Hillcoat had erred in the casting, if Mortensen and Smit-McPhee had let an ounce of Hollywood slip into their performances, the movie would have been unendurable. But the two actors triumph, drawing us into their characters' bruised hearts and minds.

Peter Travers
Rolling Stone
25 November 2009

An old hand at heroes ("The Lord of the Rings") and enigmas ("Eastern Promises"), Mortensen delivers a performance of pure, agonized transparency.

Amy Biancolli
San Francisco Chronicle
25 November 2009

Mr. Mortensen, looking haggard and haunted, pushes it toward realism. A surpassingly quiet and thoughtful actor, he specializes in making improbable characters -- a warrior in "Lord of the Rings," a Russian mobster in "Eastern Promises," a small-town dad with a secret in "A History of Violence" -- seem like natural extensions of his own personality. In Mr. McCarthy's skeletal, purple-tinted prose, the father is less a cipher than an axiom, an embodiment of flinty paternal steadfastness partly humanized by doubts and flaws. Mr. Mortensen puts flesh on the bones and a soul behind the exhausted, terrified eyes.

A. O. Scott
New York Times
25 November 2009

When the world goes boom, I want Viggo Mortensen to be my dad. Who's better to keep your spirits up in the hideous post-apocalyptic afterlife, as pictured in John Hillcoat's The Road, the adaptation of the Cormac McCarthy epic-length tome? Mortensen, as always, brings grave dimension and inner grace to an Everyman part he's mastered. This is perhaps the greatest of those roles.

Marshall Fine
Huffington Post
24 November 2009

The best thing about the film is Viggo Mortensen's performance. A stealth talent of many shadings, Mortensen has a way of fitting easily into nearly any period, any milieu.

Michael Phillips
Chicago Tribune
24 November 2009

The dramatic tension and narrative suspense come from silences that speak louder than words and explosions, and from the raw and powerful performances. There seems to be no end to Viggo Mortensen's talents. His portrait of a man driven by spirited parental love, whose last act on earth is to prepare his son for the courage to live without his protection, is so touching that ... well, all I can say is, prepare to be emotionally hammered.

Rex Reed
New York Observer
24 November 2009

Mortensen's performance is astounding. Looking a lot more like Gollum than Aragorn, he's shaggily bearded, smeared in grime and shockingly thin, with cheekbones like lemon juicers and teeth like the visual aids in a school anti-smoking lecture...Viggo Mortensen gives a three-dimensional performance in 'The Road' that needs no 3D glasses.

Nicholas Barber
The Independent
10 January 2010

One of the strongest points of The Road is the complexity of its central character The Man, played with ferocious grace by the outrageously talented Viggo Mortensen.

Charlene Lydon
Film Ireland Online
14 December 2009

Viggo Mortensen, wounded, vulnerable, tough and tender is a heartbreaking vision of walking life and death. He so fits into the wasteland (perfectly grim and strangely spectacular), that he feels an organic part of this ragged, twisted wilderness.

Kim Morgan
Huffington Post
29 December 2009

Starring Viggo Mortensen in an alternately feral and saintly performance of shattering emotional depth - his are the most haunted eyes I've ever seen sustained in a film performance

Carl Kozlowski
Big Hollywood
24 November

No performance in "The Road" is poor. Mortensen does easily his best work since "The Lord of the Rings" films, and can shift his emotional dynamic from cunning protector to gentle mentor effortlessly. His long, overgrown hair and beard mask his true compassion for his son, but his resourcefulness and street smarts take them far. I felt his on-screen presence defined the film.

David Van Der Haeghen
22 May 2010

The Road features, what I consider to be, the best male performance of the year in Viggo Mortensen. Mortensen reveals fear like no actor I've ever seen. But it isn't just his gaunt, frightened face - it's the love in his eyes, the tragedy that lays before them, the impossibility of his situation.

Sasha Stone
Awards Daily
20 January 2010

The look in Viggo's eyes secures his nomination, I feel confident. It's going to take a lot of wry grins, curmudgeonly scowls, and other baked ham recipes for any other actor to match the depths this role fathoms.

Ryan Adams
Awards Daily
October 2009

Mortensen and Smit-McPhee are both dead-on in their portrayals. Mortensen carries himself with the look of someone who has to dig to the bottom of his soul each day to go on, but will not give up because of his son. On the other hand Smit-McPhee's open earnestness, which occasionally slips to reveal the youngster still surviving inside is gripping to watch.

Euan Kerr
Minnesota Public Radio
25 November 2009

It's easy to destroy the world in a movie; it's been done dozens of times. It takes great acting to make Armageddon meaningful. In "The Road," Viggo Mortensen's potent performance puts a lump in your throat, forcing you to think about the people who've died and the families they left behind. He embodies the primal fear of losing the ones you love and being left alone in the world. He raises the post-apocalyptic tale to the rank of Greek tragedy.

Colin Colvert
Minnesota Star Tribune
28 November 2009

If Viggo Mortensen has given a better performance, I haven't seen it

Paul Byrne
Brisbane Times
26 January 2010

If Mortensen fails to win an Academy Award nomination, voters should be censured. He embodies all the prerequisites: loving but strict father, terrified traveler, warrior by necessity. And he plays them with such conviction, you want him watching your back if the apocalypse should ever occur.

Joan Vadeboncoeur
1 December 2009

Viggo Mortensen has never been better than he is in The Road. He arguably gives the best male performance of the year, starving himself down to nothing, and finding the terror in his situation. This is something I've only seen another actor do once: Adrien Brody in The Pianist

Sasha Stone
Awards Daily
14 January 2010

It's a testament to Hillcoat's obvious belief in the strength of unadorned screen acting that he, like McCarthy before him, refuses even to explain the global cataclysm that has brought his protagonists to this state. Instead he asks us to read it, mostly, in the depths of Mortensen's wide, pellucid eyes. The actor, whose often underrated intensity has been overshadowed by his heroic role in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, is here unleashed to mesmerising effect. His body is skeletal (the result of severe and deliberate weight loss), and his skin ingrained with dirt, but his eyes are filled with the kind of tremulous compassion that can carry the emotional weight of an entire movie.

Kevin Maher
The Times Online
8 January 2010

...failures of altruism disturb the boy, and he worries his father with the question, "Are we still the good guys?". Such is the power of the veteran Viggo Mortensen - increasingly a latter-day Gary Cooper - and epigone Kodi Smit-McPhee that we never doubt the answer for a moment.

Clive Sinclair
The Times Literary Supplement
2 November 2009

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.

David Edelstein
New York Magazine
15 November 2009

Mortensen warms the film with his presence, creating a vivid portrait of a bereft man clinging to the one thing he has left. This fine actor is one of the few capable of investing a character with a full though unspoken past; you think you know, watching him, what kind of life this man had "before." He looks lovingly at his son and dreams of his wife, lost in the darkness, wondering if light will ever come.

Moira Macdonald
Seattle Times
25 November 2009

..when an actor like Viggo Mortensen is in front of the camera, it's best to just let the camera run and let him be. Mortensen gives a brilliant, genius performance. His character's every breath is not just his own, but a breath for his son, a breath for hope, and Mortensen conveys that with harrowing accuracy.

Brandon Lee Tenney
25 November 2009

Mortensen will never be the kind of actor who can disappear into a role, not with his haunted, piercing eyes. But he can commit as fiercely as the young DeNiro. Midway into "The Road" Mortensen strips for a bath, revealing a frightfully emaciated frame. Mortensen can get into his characters' skins, but also their souls, and he knows how to project a characters inner life onto the screen.

Jeffrey Westhoff
Northwest Herald
24 November 2009

Mortensen's compelling performance is a sure bet come nominations. Though I doubt it will win. But it equally deserves as the other nominees. His sad and terrified expressions are enough to make the film utterly believable. I personally have not seen a performance this good that has made me draw a couple of tears since Will Smith's A Pursuit of Happiness.

Paolo Sardinas
24 November 2009

As for Viggo Mortensen, whilst one always appreciates the power from his eyes and his physical presence, here, his capacity to invest total honesty into this impressive man who tries never to lie to his child even as he feels his life-force disappearing, is prodigious. Without a doubt he's never been as good as he is in The Road, and that is saying something.

Hervé Deplasse
Brazil Magazine (French)
December Issue 2009

There is a mournful shot of The Man letting go of his former life, of his wife's picture, his wallet, his wedding ring, and his identity. None of these things matter anymore in this new world. The surprising way in which Mortensen plays this scene in such a non-sentimental way, and the physical commitment he brings to the part overall, clearly indicates his status as one of the most adventurous, talented actors working in film today (his contemporaries being, in my mind Edward Norton, Mathieu Amalric and Daniel Day Lewis). The horror as he reflects on his wife's fate and forges ahead with a new self signals man's ability to rise from primordial sadness and evil to adapt. You can only beg someone to stay with you so much if they can't handle the harsh reality and this is what The Man must do with his wife.

Mortensen's performance is a thing of wonder; he is an actor whose instrument is more finely tuned with each new venture. Using his entire body to signal pain, but particularly wielding his glassy eyes like sharp little weapons, the actor captures a cagey, yet hopeful spirit, a good man in a worst case scenario trying to do what he can to get by. Not unlike the greatest leading men in classic Hollywood westerns, Mortensen is stoic, brimming with quiet fury.

Matt Mazur
22 November 2009

Viggo Mortensen gives an emotional tour de force as the embattled father; look for him on the red carpet come March.

Zach Copeland
The Film Crusade
13 November 2009

Mortensen's performance as the lead is simply unforgettable and a sure lock for an Oscar nomination.

19 October 2009

Mortensen's performance is superb, both emotional and physical. We feel his weakness, yet we also feel that near obsessive need to keep moving, and the exhaustion that comes with it. He is one of the few actors who can tell a story with his eyes, and these are eyes so full of pain. It is the best kind of acting, pure and honest.

John Foote
In Contention
15 September 2009

Viggo Mortensen is predictably unpredictable and brilliant as the father desperately trying to live just because it's all he knows to do.

Anton Sirius
Ain't it Cool News
16 September 2009

Mortensen is brilliant in what is essentially a two man show starring him, and McPhee.

Chris Bumbray
16 September 2009

Viggo Mortensen gives the performance of his career in the faithfully rendered film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's heartbreaking apocalyptic novel The Road.

Rex Reed
New York Observer
15 September 2009

Mortensen astonishes, with a quiet, intense performance as a man willing to go to any lengths to protect his son and the hope of a second chance, while 13-year-old Smit-McPhee is the beating heart of the film, with a permanently haunted expression.

Lewis Bazley
16 October 2009

Mortensen is perfectly cast in this memorable role, bringing an all-or-nothing determination that makes you believe he has survived the horrible odds. In addition to constant fear and despair, his eyes convey a sense of humanity and undying parental love.

Linda Marotta
16 September 2009

...there's no denying its raw power. Viggo Mortensen is good at doing haunted men, and his turn here is no exception. He plays a scooped-out shell of a man whose whole being is focused on his own survival and that of his boy.

Apocalyptic horror for arthouse in The Road
Evening Standard
Lee Marshall
3 September 2009

Mortensen is perfectly cast as the gaunt, wasted hero, while Smit-McPhee copes well with a demanding role as his soulful offspring, forever willing to share his meagre meal. Although they walk together, we have the sense that these two are ultimately headed in opposite directions. Born into the old world, Mortensen's father starts out strong and then starts to fade. Born into the new, his son grows in stature and picks up the baton. He presses on down the road, hungry, filthy and wonderfully sane; a glimmer of hope for the human race.

The superb adaptation of The Road takes us on a bleak journey
Xan Brooks
The Guardian
3 September 2009

This is easily the best movie at the Toronto Film Festival and is not only well-made, but has some of the most disturbing scenes I have ever witnessed (people around me were covering their faces in horror). Viggo Mortensen's performance is definitely Oscar-worthy and so is John Hillcoat's directing. Do yourself a favor, see this movie as soon as it becomes available. And be ready to cry, scream and enjoy yourself.

The Best Movies from Toronto Film Festival
13 September 2009

There are essentially two actors in the film and both are sensational. Mortensen has grown in leaps and bounds over the years and this may be his finest hour. Subtle, nuanced and saying little with so much, Mortensen gives a beautiful and powerful performance.

Paul Fischer at Toronto
13 September 2009

Viggo Mortensen delivers an Oscar-worthy performance as a man whose humanity and strength of will must outlast the end of civilization.

Peter Howell
Toronto Star
13 September 2009

A bleak Viggo Mortensen, his face etched like an El Greco painting, urgently and convincingly conveys his character's love and desperation, the actor's physicality heightening the sense of reality - a sense that becomes overwhelming by the hopeless third act, despite the attempted relief of the final moments.

Fionnuala Halligan
Screen Daily
Venice Film Festival
3 September, 2009

Viggo Mortensen renders an amazing performance in a tough and demanding picture, which he carries on his robust shoulders with impressive skills and emotions. Rising above the limitations of the text (which reads better as a novel than a movie) and the movie, which for long stretches of time is silent, plotless, and devoid of characters, Mortensen gives a towering performance that holds the entire picture together--literally and figuratively. Thus, I hope that critics and audiences will be able to separate Viggo's distinguished work from the less than distinguished movie in which it is contained.

Emmanuel Levy
4 September 2009

Viggo Mortensen, wild-eyed, unshaven and emaciated, is haunting as the father who, after the death of his beloved wife (Charlize Theron, briefly seen in flashbacks), sets out with his frightened son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) on a journey to the sea where, he hopes, they may find some kind of peace.

David Stratton
The Australian
9 September 2009

This is a menacing, bleak, suspenseful drama shot with an almost monochrome, austere beauty, with impressive performances from both Mr. Mortensen and Smit-McPhee...

New York Magazine
4 September 2009

...Viggo Mortensen is The Road's noble lead, and the baggage he brings really works for it. Yes, he gives us hints of the proud warrior father-figure from Lord Of The Rings, but bubbling beneath the surface is the tortured assassin from A History Of Violence. Will he ever use his gun, loaded with just two bullets? And if he does, who will he turn it on?

Damon Wise
3 September 2009

Mortensen is predictably fantastic. That dude can say 5 different things with his face in one ten second take. He's raw, nervous, slightly crazed, but still has a working moral compass. His every movement is to protect his kid as they make their way through the gray landscape that used to be America.

Ain't it Cool News
8 September 2008

...Hillcoat's film is both faithful to and expands upon McCarthy's novel. But as the book did, it always returns to the father, played with fierce tenderness by Viggo Mortensen, and his efforts to keep his boy alive and get him to some safe place - if such a place still exists. It's a performance that alternately smolders and flares, as Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee (as the boy) trudge through a gray, desolate landscape, trying to maintain their humanity and stay alive, while dodging others who have succumbed to the Darwinian imperative.

Marshall Fine
Huffington Post
14 September 2009

The film is a powerful, deeply emotional work filled with despair and pain, and anchored every step of the way by Viggo Mortensen in a strong performance that is largely physical... Mortensen captures the wounded man's pain in his wonderfully expressive eyes, and despite being faced with death all around him, he is a life force for whom survival is paramount.

John Foote
14 September 2009

I felt "The Road" was a masterful film, one of the best of the festival, superbly directed by John Hillcoat and brilliantly acted by Viggo Mortenson and Robert Duvall.

John Foote
In Contention
15 September 2009

Mortensen's hero is sore pressed to avoid them all. He has an instinct for survival, as evinced by earlier interactions with his wife (Charlize Theron) while the world crumbles around them. But in his battles with monstrosity, he runs the risk of becoming a monster himself: casting out decent souls who may need his help just because he can't trust them to play square with him. When blended with Mortensen's natural intensity, it creates a figure at once compelling and frightening, the perfect embodiment of this stunning global death rattle.

Rob Vaux
30 October 2009

If you can jive with its solemn rhythm, this is a movie of performances--actually, pretty much just two of them: Mortensen, with his eyes sunk deep into his skull, delivers a carefully understated interpretation of vanity in the face of defeat.

Eric Kohn
8 September 2009

Viggo Mortensen gives one of his most haunting and emotional performances in "The Road," the post-apocalyptic tale from the pen of the great American author, Cormac McCarthy, whose book "No Country for Old Men" deservedly won the 2007 Best Picture Oscar. It may be premature, but I think that Viggo Mortensen's work in this tough, relentlessly grim but ultimately humanistic picture should get a serious consideration comes Oscar time.

Emmanuel Levy
Interview with Viggo Mortensen, Oscar Contender
3 September 2009

The Father, hollowed out in the personage of Viggo Mortensen, tells his son to keep the proverbial fire alive inside his chest, and this small gesture of something bigger than oneself exists as a flickering light in a world of unrelenting darkness....Viggo is in full-on Christian Bale mode here as a spindly phantom of himself, chewing on crickets and running buck-naked. Most satisfying of all is that the film never cheats its audience, never gives in to any kind of easy resolve to its situations, but continues McCarthy's sadistic trials and tribulations as they pan out throughout the movie.

Mike Rot
Row Three Tiff Reviews
14 September 2009

Always on a humanistic level, and with equal shares are his two remarkable leading actors, allowed to create one of the most magnificent father-son relationships seen on a cinema screen.

Laurent Pécha
6 September 2009

Young Australian actor, Smit-McPhee is refreshingly unpretentious as a kid who has to grow up fast and plays wonderfully off a magnificent Mortensen who is rugged and ultimately quite touching as a father unwilling to let go.

Pete Hammond
3 September 2009

You feel every triumph and every scare. This wouldn't have been possible if it weren't for the stellar performances from Mortensen and newcomer Smit-McPhee, who together make up a family that will be tugging at your heart throughout most of the film.

Alex Billington
7 September 2009

Actors Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee have difficult, physically demanding tasks. Mortensen, with an unkempt beard that makes him look like a mountain man, embodies someone who has decided to live instead of give up, and whose every ounce of effort is devoted to protecting his son. Smit-McPhee shows maturity and impressive range for one so young.

James Berardinelli
Reel Reviews
15 September 2009

The true heart of this film is the gentle relationship between The Man and The Boy, played with sublime grace by Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee. The dynamic of the piece necessitates the central characters and the actors who play them must be believable as they carry so much of our engagement on their shoulders.... Mortensen evokes an incredible depth to his performance, there is a true sadness in his eyes as as he shepherds The Boy through the badlands of the world his depleted energy is a cruel testament to the incompatibility of the bond of love in this crestfallen world. One brief surprisingly uplifting moment occurs when The Man upends an old vending machine to find a dusty can of Coke its in bowels, and The Boy's surprise at its alien taste and, once his begrudgingly accepts a taste, there is the briefest moment when The Man looks off into an imagined distance, recalling a lost time. It rips through what is left of your heart. Each performance is perfect...

Jon Lyus
16 October 2009

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Last edited: 15 September 2011 06:17:48