While I still maintain that in Terence Malick’s hands, Cormac McCarthy’s tale of sheer will in the face of abject hopelessness would have been a truly gut-wrenching cinematic experience, John Hillcoat’s vision is a rough and magnificent tonic, a bitter cold expression of the ties that bind and strength found when all is lost. Viggo Mortensen is a man traveling with his son (a heart-breakingly authentic Kodi Smit-McPhee) through an apocalypse ravaged America, heading toward the coast and clinging to the last semblances of civilized life. I refuse to compare the film to McCarthy’s devastating novel, but in Viggo Mortensen Hillcoat finds the haggard rasp of a man on the brink, and a face that reflects the muted plea of a ruined soul. Guy Pearce once again makes a mountain of a mole hill (as he did in The Hurt Locker), proving he is an actor worth his salt, and Robert Duvall will leave you speechless. Proving himself a true artist once again, Garret Dillahunt makes your stomach turn in a role that showcases the astounding amount of talent that few seem to see (his performance in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford was once of the best screen performances of any kind, not to mention his spectacular performance in No Country for Old Men). Hillcoat's camera finds the ragged core of every landscape (or lack thereof), and another Nick Cave and Warren Ellis triumph of a soundtrack punctuates the sense of melancholy. Those looking for a good time at the movies may want to avoid this harsh and enervating film, but those looking for an actual experience may do well to see Hillcoat’s modern classic. Steel yourself for the elements.