Praise heavens we live in the DVD era.
In the past, if a movie never made it to your market, your only recourse was to drive to NY/LA (and occasionally Chicago), bust through the theater window with your Batman utility belt, and force the projectionist at fistpoint to lug it out of the archives and screen it for you.
Now, you ask the internet, and the internet sends you your movie. That's the riveting tale of how I saw a movie that never showed up here despite being adapted from an Oprah's Book Club choice and starring Aragorn himself: 2009's The Road.
Viggo Mortensen and his son Kodi Smit-McPhee travel across an ashy wasteland. The world has ended, along with almost all life. On their trip to warmer climes, they spend most of their time finding food -- or avoiding becoming it at the hands of desperate cannibals.
That doesn't sound too glamorous, but that's just because you're right. The Road is like the anti-2012: a grimy, small-stakes world where everyone looks like hobos. Not movie-hobos, either. The ones who smell like roasted lion manure and will stab you with a chopstick they sharpened on a sidewalk. A sidewalk that was quite dirty itself.
It's a stripped-down, exhausting apocalypse. For me, much of the lure of the apocalypse is the prospect of stealing everybody else's stuff and sailing to an island where I lie on the beach while friendly pelicans fetch me fish. You don't get that here.
You get humans kept as livestock, a few charred beetles for dinner, and a whole world of dirt and ash. This place is grayer than elephants building sidewalks on the moon and grimmer than a skull whose girlfriend just broke up with it.
That looks better than it sounds. The Road's cinematography (by Javier Aguirresarobe) may be its strongest aspect.
Like WALL-E, its ruins and desolation are evocative and oddly beautiful.
The big question of "Hey, some douche blew up the world" movies is what do you do now?
The answer, usually, is try to not die. The Road does this better than most -- its characters are starving and filthy, struggling with far more relatable concerns than state-sized volcanoes -- but that makes it even more episodic than other post-apocalypse movies too, with a lack of any real rising action to the plot.
So dramatically, it's (waggling hand side-to-side in the air), but in terms of atmosphere, set design, and realism, it's (pushing lower lip up, raising eyebrows, nodding repeatedly).
Fans of civilization getting all wrecked up should definitely take a look.
* Contact Ed Robertson at firstname.lastname@example.org