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The Road is a 2009 film directed by John Hillcoat and written by Joe Penhall. Based on the 2006 novel of the same name by American author Cormac McCarthy, the film stars Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee as a father and his son in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Filming took place in Pennsylvaniamarker, Louisianamarker, and Oregonmarker. The film was released on and is scheduled to be released on in UK cinemas.


The Road follows the premise from the book of the same name. An unnamed father (Mortensen) and his young son (Smit-McPhee) struggle to survive after an unspecified apocalypse and make their way toward the coast for possible food, shelter, safety, or to potentially find other survivors of the cataclysmic events. Along the way, they encounter grave struggles and hardships across the barren landscapes, with scarce shelter and resources available to them, and having to avoid bands of cannibals and other desperate gangs looking to pillage valuables and food. Various flashback sequences occur where the Man remembers events prior to the catastrophe, many involving his deceased wife, who has a much more expanded role in the film than in the original book.


  • Viggo Mortensen as the Man. Mortensen explained the interaction of the father with his son, "They’re on this difficult journey, and the father is basically learning from the son."
  • Kodi Smit-McPhee as the Boy. At the London Film Festival, Mortensen explained that Smit-McPhee was one of four finalists for the part, all of whom then read with him. Smit-McPhee was unanimously chosen, in particular because he seemed youthful, innocent and yet wise beyond his years.
  • Charlize Theron as the Wife, who appears in flashback. Theron joined the film because she was a fan of the book and had previously worked with producer Nick Wechsler on the 2000 film The Yards. The character will have a larger role in the film than she did in the book. Hillcoat said of the expanded role, "I think it's fine to depart from the book as long as you maintain the spirit of it."
  • Michael K. Williams as a thief.
  • Guy Pearce as a father wandering with his family.
  • Robert Duvall as an old, dying man.


Filmmakers sought to implement bleak scenery as the backdrop of post-apocalyptic America for the characters' journey
In November 2006, producer Nick Wechsler used independent financing to acquire film rights to adapt the 2006 novel The Road by Cormac McCarthy. When Wechsler had watched John Hillcoat's 2005 film The Proposition after reading The Road, the producer decided to pursue Hillcoat to direct the film adaptation. Wechsler described Hillcoat's style: "There was something beautiful in the way John captured the stark primitive humanity of the West in that movie." In April 2007, Joe Penhall was hired to script the adapted screenplay. Wechsler and his fellow producers Steve and Paula Mae Schwartz planned to have a script and an actor cast to portray the father before pursuing a distributor for the film. By the following November, actor Viggo Mortensen had entered negotiations with the filmmakers to portray the father, though he was occupied with filming Appaloosa in New Mexicomarker.

With a budget of $20 million, filming began in southwestern Pennsylvaniamarker in late February 2008 for eight weeks and moved on to Louisianamarker and Oregonmarker. Pennsylvania, where most of the filming took place, was chosen for its tax breaks and its abundance of locations that looked post-apocalyptic: coalfields, dunes, and run-down parts of Pittsburghmarker. Filming was also done at the 1892 Amusement park (Conneaut Lake Parkmarker) after one of the parks buildings (the Dreamland Ballroom) was destroyed in a fire in February 2008. The beaches of Presque Isle State Parkmarker in Erie, Pennsylvaniamarker were also used. Hillcoat also said of using Pittsburgh as a practical location, "It's a beautiful place in fall with the colors changing, but in winter, it can be very bleak. There are city blocks that are abandoned. The woods can be brutal. We didn't want to go the CGI world." Filmmakers also shot scenes in parts of New Orleansmarker that had been ravaged by Hurricane Katrina and on Mount St. Helensmarker in Washingtonmarker.

Hillcoat sought to make the film faithful to the spirit of the book, creating "a world in severe trauma", although never explaining the circumstances of the apocalyptic event. According to Hillcoat, "That's what makes it more realistic, then it immediately becomes about survival and how you get through each day as opposed to what actually happened." Filmmakers took advantage of days with bad weather to portray the post-apocalyptic environment. Mark Forker, the director of special effects for the film, sought to make the landscape convincing, handling sky replacement and digitally removing greenery from scenes.

The Abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpikemarker was used for much of production, with evidence shown at the eastern portal of the Sideling Hill Tunnelmarker. The exterior of the tunnel was somewhat restored for filming, with the doors to the ventilation shaft repainted as well as the white paint near the base of the tunnel entrance being painted tan to match the rest of the exterior of the tunnels. (When the property was still owned by the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, vandalism took place on the abandoned tunnels sometime in the 1980s, with the white paint used to cover up graffiti.) The same was done with the western portal to Sideling Hill as well as the eastern portal of the Rays Hill Tunnelmarker. Filming did not take place on the western portal of the Rays Hill Tunnel towards Breezewood, Pennsylvaniamarker, as well as the Laurel Hill Tunnelmarker further west due to the latter having been used by Chip Ganassi Racing for wind tunnel testing since 2004.File:Sideling Hill.jpg|The eastern portal of the Sideling Hill Tunnel in 2006, before filming commenced.File:Sideling Hill Tunnel 2009.jpg|The eastern portal of the Sideling Hill Tunnel in 2009 after filming of the movie shows evidence of the tunnel being mildly restored.


The Road was originally scheduled to be released in November 2008. It was pushed back to be released in December, and then pushed back a second time to sometime in 2009. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the studio decided that the film would benefit from a longer post-production process and a less crowded release calendar. A new release date was scheduled for October 16, 2009. However, according to reports from Screen Rant and /Film, the Weinsteins had decided at the last minute to delay the film to November 25, 2009 as a possible move to make the film more of an Oscar contender, bumping their previous film set for that date, Rob Marshall's adaptation of the musical Nine (which is also predicted to be a huge awards contender) into December 2009.

The film had its world premiere in September 2009 at the Venice International Film Festival where it was in competition for the Golden Lion and Silver Lion prizes, and then at the Telluride Film Festival. It also screened at the Toronto International Film Festival.


The film currently holds a 70% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 114 reviews. It also has a score of 64/100 on Metacritic, based on 32 reviews, indicating generally positive reviews from critics.

Esquire's Tom Chiarella screened the film before it was released and called it "a brilliantly directed adaptation of a beloved novel, a delicate and anachronistically loving look at the immodest and brutish end of us all. You want them to get there, you want them to get there, you want them to get there—and yet you do not want it, any of it, to end." He also referred to it as "the most important movie of the year."

In an early review, Guardian film critic Xan Brooks gave the film four stars out of five, and described it as "a haunting, harrowing, powerful film," with Mortensen "perfectly cast" as the Man.

A review in Adbusters disapproved of the apparent product placement in the film, but, as noted by Hillcoat, the references to real-life corporations appear in the novel, and companies such as Coca-Cola were in fact reluctant about being named in the film.


  1. NME
  2. A New Poster for The Road

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