Introductory Note: I recently wrote this critique for British newspaper. For the benefit of my readers in the US, I’m posting it to my blog. – JWR
The recently released movie The Road, based on the same-titled novel by award-winning writer Cormac McCarthy illustrated some classic blunders in bushcraft and tactical movement. Doubtless, many of these gaffes were intentional–I suspect for the sake of drama, or to provide enough light for the night scenes.
Here is a short list:
1.) Following main arterial roads. In a post-collapse environment, major roads will become linear ambush zones. To avoid trouble, “The Man” and “The Boy” should have traveled overland, or on only the smallest roads and trails.
2.) Lighting large campfires. Large campfires were repeatedly lit at night, under circumstances where it was very important to avoid detection. “Cold camps” or at least using small tin can stoves would have been much more appropriate!
I don’t want to reveal any “spoilers”, but suffice it to say, in the highly inimical circumstances depicted in the movie, the last thing that “The Man” should have done was to light up a big “Here I am” beacon each night!
3.) No security precautions when sleeping. With not enough manpower to provide a night watch, they would have very likely “woken up dead”. Some intrusion detection systems are very low tech or even “no tech.” For example, they could have easily set up trip wires attached to empty tin cans to provide a noise-making perimeter security for their campsites.
Better yet, they should have teamed up with at least one more adult, so that they could have taken turns at keeping watch.
4.) Ignoring basic camouflage. By wearing clothing in relatively bright colors, they greatly increased their chances of being detected. Their outer layers should have been all earth tones. They also left their bare faces showing. In the cold weather depicted, they should have been wearing earth-tone balaclavas. This would have provided both warmth and better camouflage.
5.) Failure to provide adequate rain protection. A couple of lightweight tarps at night, and earth tone ponchos worn during the day would have kept “The Man” and “The Boy” much dryer and warmer.
6.) Not making improvised weapons. “The Man” was depicted as having a revolver with only a very few cartridges. Yet, he did nothing to provide other weapons for self-defense. Even a sharpened stick with its point hardened in a fire would have been better than nothing.
7.) Leaving a safe well-stocked shelter prematurely. Again, I don’t want to reveal a “spoiler”, but suffice it to say, at one point “The Man” and “The Boy” are ensconced in a dry, safe, and well-stocked shelter. Leaving that shelter when they did was a mistake. They left behind many useful supplies. They should have foraged in the vicinity longer, and put on more weight before resuming their journey.
Despite these gaffes, the film is still worth seeing, and I even more highly recommend reading McCarthy’s novel.