Road to Perdition – Review

22 Dec

When I say that I’ve been wanting to watch this movie for about ten years, I really have been wanting to watch this movie for ten years. It’s not like anything really stood in my way, more so that I just never got around to actually watching  it. But no more! After Sam Mendes took home the Academy Award for his debut film, American Beauty, he was approached with a script based off a graphic novel by Michael Allan Collins. The result is Road to Perdition, a wonderfully acted, designed, and all around fantastic movie that may never be a classic, but still should be recognized as something great.

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Michael (Tyler Hoechlin) is a 12 year old boy who looks up to has father, but isn’t really sure of what he does. In reality his father is a notorious mob enforcer, Michael Sullivan (Tom Hanks), who works for Irish mobster John Rooney (Paul Newman). When Michael sees his father unwillingly help in a murder committed by John’s son Connor (Daniel Craig), the older Michael has to take him on the run after his wife and other son are killed to keep the secret from getting out. As the two Sullivans begin robbing banks to support themselves, John Rooney hires hitman and photographer Harlen Maguire (Jude Law)to hunt them down and silence them once and for all.

Having wanted to see this movie for years, there was a lot of pressure because if I didn’t like it than, shit, that would’ve been a waste of lots of excitement and anticipation. After finally seeing Road to Perdition, there is nothing I need to complain about. It was a really great movie, but there’s something about it that really stops it from achieving a status as a classic. My theory is that it isn’t quite as large or sweeping as The GodfatherScarface, or even Boardwalk Empire. People, including me, love huge movies and Road to Perdition is the quiet, smart kid who sits in the back of the room and only gets attention from people who know what he’s capable of.

 

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What Sam Mendes succeeds at doing is creating a uniquely small, yet hard hitting story about the relationship between a father and son. There’s plenty of gunplay and mobster violence to be had in this movie, but a lot of it occurs offscreen because that isn’t the focus of the movie. Instead, much of what we see is through the eyes of a 12 year old. The older Sullivan is seen as a mysterious figure, always shot from afar, but he soon becomes much clearer and human and is shot with more close ups. Small things like this make the story much more potent and is also just a sign of the talents that Mendes and the late, great cinematographer Conrad L. Hall have and had. Hall especially makes great use of light, lighting every scene as if it were an Edward Hopper painting.

Finally, the cast of actors are all top notch. Hanks carries his role and is pretty much the actor to play these types of roles. Newman gives one of his last great performances as the tragic “villain” while Jude Law hams it up perfectly as the rat like photographer/hitman. Credit also has to be given to Tyler Hoechlin who gives a fine performance, despite his age. This is not an easy role for a kid to take on, but he handles it with the maturity and sincerity of a professional.

Road to Perdition is one of the most underrated movies that has come out within the last 10 to 20 years. It has a superbly quiet, yet startlingly violent story to tell about a strained relationship between a father and son. Paul Newman and Conrad Hall both do fine jobs in this film being so late in their careers, while Hanks, Law, and Hoechlin carry their own weight on the screen as well. This may not be as epic as other mobster films or shows, but it has a story that packs one hell of a dramatic punch and also works as a brilliant form of artistic expression. This is a great film, and highly underappreciated.

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