Tag Archives: sam mendes

Revolutionary Road – Review

2 Sep

To me, some of the coolest kinds of movies take subjects that seem completely normal and uneventful and completely flip them on their heads to show a much more unsettling look at normalcy. In 1999, director Sam Mendes graced the world with a masterwork of film making, American Beauty, which took a darkly comedic look at the sometimes tragic follies of suburban living. After this great success, Mendes would revisit similar themes with his 2008 film Revolutionary Road. While it does share similar elements to his earlier film, Revolutionary Road is a much more serious and unsettling look at marriage, mental health, and the idea of “settling down.” It’s an overwhelming experience that is bound to leave you drained by the end.

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After Frank Wheeler (Leonardo DiCaprio) meets April (Kate Winslet) at a party, it doesn’t take long for them to fall in love and start their life together. They move into a nice house on Revolutionary Road in the suburbs of Connecticut. Frank gets a job as a salesman for Knox Machines and April stays home taking care of their two young kids. It seems like the perfect nuclear family. What’s happening behind closed doors is less than perfect. Frank and April’s relationship is completely disintegrating, and this disintegrations is causing a lot of hate to boil to the surface. This hate has to remain hidden from their friends and neighbors. Their final solution to this is to pack their things, get out of the mundane life they created and move to Paris. While this idea brings them closer to the happiness they desire, a promotion offered to Frank once again puts their relationship in jeopardy as their desires and feelings become even more at ends and their lives begin to spiral out of control.

What Mendes did for more modern suburban life with American Beauty, he does for the nuclear family in Revolutionary Road. This film takes a tough look at what is labeled as the “perfect American life.” The Wheelers are a close family that live in a nice house in a nice neighborhood, and that’s ultimately what seems to be their downfall. Everything is just too nice. It also shows the long term consequences of decisions that seemed like a great idea at the time, like quickly getting married or hastily taking a job that you have no interest in. I feel like I’m rambling a little bit, but that’s one of the more interesting parts about this movie. Everything seems so mundane and ordinary at first glance, but this mundanity is what’s helping to tear this family to shreds. Revolutionary Road also takes a critical look at relationships. It doesn’t condemn them even a little bit, but it forces the audience to examine what makes them actually work and how too much focus on yourself, no matter how right or wrong you may be, can wreak the foundation a relationship is built on. In a nutshell, Revolutionary Road is a film about the extraordinary dark side to an otherwise ordinary life, which may seem all to real to some people.

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Revolutionary Road is an emotionally exhausting film, and I guarantee that by the end you’re going to need either eat an entire tub of ice cream or take a really long nap. There are scenes in this movie that are so intense and real and uncomfortable that I was looking at it through my fingers. When a movie isn’t a horror film and it elicits that kind of reaction, then something was done very right. While it is very intense and tragic in many scenes, there are times where it got to be a bit too much. That’s probably my only complaint with this film. It goes from being highly dramatic to too predictably melodramatic. This only happens a few times throughout the course of the movie so it really isn’t that big of a complaint at all. Most of the scenes hit the dramatic intensity just right, while a select few kind of just go too far. One major contribution to the drama is Thomas Newman’s excellent score that fits right in with the film’s onscreen action.

Watching this movie, it isn’t hard to believe that before working in film, Mendes was a prolific director of stage plays. He, along with the help of master cinematographer Roger Deakins, films this movie like something that could be found on stage. It works great for the film and really allows that actors to work with the limited space that is given to them DiCaprio and Winslet have already shown their chemistry in Titanic, and now show a much more matured version of that chemistry in Revolutionary Road. They give outstanding performances that, I feel, have become under appreciated since the time of this movie’s release. I was surprised to see Michael Shannon, who has grown to be one of my absolute favorite actors, shows up for a little bit. He’s only in a few scenes, but he absolutely owns the screen whenever he’s on, and for this small performance he was given a Best Supporting Actor nomination.

Revolutionary Road is one of those movies that really hits you where it hurts. At times, the drama could get a little heavy handed and the writing could stray into the “no one really talks like that” category. Even with the rare heavy handedness, this is a really interesting and upsetting film that succeeds in exactly what it was trying to do. Not only is this film shot very well, but the acting is superb and the production and costume design really get you into the era that the film takes place. Mendes is a film maker that understands the more subtle terrors of normal life, and he uses them very well in Revolutionary Road.

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.