ROAD TO PERDITION
Michael Sullivan (Tom Hanks) works for John Rooney (Paul Newman) as a henchman, quietly eliminating anyone who crosses the interests of the gang one way or another. Rooney adopted him as a kid, like a son, and treats him like one Ė a better son than the weakling Connor Rooney (Daniel Craig ) will ever be. But Michael is desperate that his own son, only 12 (Tyler Hoechlin), does not follow in his fatherís deadly footsteps. So when the young Michael learns what his father does the hard way, and Connor threatens the stability of the Ďfamilyí, Michael Snr has to take desperate measures to save his sonís future. He takes the road to Perdition, with tragic results.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Stardom is a double edged sword for actors, and Tom Hanks is a star alright. The difference between a star and an actor is that a star brings her/his own baggage (meaning everything about their screen persona) to each character: thatís what audiences want to see. Think of all the great stars of cinema, from Cary Grant to Humphrey Bogart to Clint Eastwood to Marlon Brando, and the element that instantly attracts us to a film in which they star is THEM. We know what sort of persona they will bring, even if the outer edges differ. Tom Hanks is a great star, and we rely on him bringing his baggage to every role. Even after a year on a desert island, heís recognisable as the guy who created Forrest Gump, say, or the guy who understated things a bit when he said (from the cramped cockpit of Apollo 13) ĎHouston, we have a problem.í So it is that Tom Hanks is the only little liability in Road to Perdition, Sam Mendes' melancholy morality tale about a gangster husband and father who wants his son to stay on the straight and narrow, in 1930s America. Iím not suggesting that Hanks does a bad job; far from it. Heís excellent as the moody, introspective, tragic figure who works as a killer for an Irish mobster (Paul Newman). Itís just that his baggage gets in the way: you can never totally immerse yourself in the filmís emotional landscape because at the back of your mind Hanks is not credible as the cold blooded killer. Itís not plausible. And itís not quite enough that Sam Mendes wants to keep the film ambiguous, not judging Michael as a good guy or a bad guy Ė a sentiment that bookends the film. Hell, I love a good guy that machine guns bad guys. And I also love this film for all its fabulous accomplishments, which are legion. Take the detail: itís so meticulous in every way you have to marvel at the combination of talents and crafts required to pull it off, from cinematography (and that includes lighting, film stock, camera angles etc) to editing and music, production design and direction, performance and script. The relationships remind me of those in Gladiator, between the disappointing, badly flawed son, the ruling father and his General. Invented as a graphic novel, but perfected as a movie, Road to Perdition is gripping human drama posing questions about human nature which gangster films of or about the period never even consider. Like the collision of morals over the Christian faith and bloody criminality. Like the impact of your life on your kids. Like your standing as a human being. One could argue that the filmís nostalgic mood and sombre tone somehow romanticise the killings, but I think that the moral issue at the core of the film, about the various father and son relationships portrayed, put those killings in context. I suspect this Road to Perdition leads to Oscar.
Review by Louise Keller:
Dark, disturbing, yet totally compelling, Road to Perdition is a gripping story about honour and family. This is a strong film with a strong impact, and we are haunted by its mood and dense production design. It is raining for most of the filmís 116 minutes, the only relief coming from the few sequences that take us outside the tense mainframe of organised crime. Canvassing the rude awakening from the sheltered oasis of childhood to the shocking reality of cold-blooded murder, Sam Mendes has honed a marvellous film that is as intense as its theme. Our eyes are opened through the youngsterís and we feel what he feels. What begins as an idle curiosity as to what is his fatherís job, becomes the catalyst for the destruction of the family unit as such, but surprisingly initiates an unbreakable bond with his father. Manís fate can change in a single second, and so can his perception. A story about contrasts, we encounter the strong and the weak, the good and the badÖ As we enter the world of hit-men and organised crime, we soon realise that there are ethics and morals within that world. But even stronger than those morals are the bonds of blood, and that indestructible connection between father and son. For the first time, we see both Tom Hanks and Paul Newman in a totally different light. And what performances! Hanks effects such complexity in Mike Sullivan Ė hit man, husband, father. Itís an understated performance with great strength, allowing every nuance to affect us emotionally. He kills without any show of emotion; itís only where his family is concerned that he allows himself to feel anything at all. Newman conveys so much with just the flicker of an eye, the hint of desperation in his tone and a gentle lilt of an Irish accent. Watch for a priceless moment with these two icons at the piano, when they play John Williamsí Perdition piano duet. The high notes, the low notes and the harmonies between them Ė are representative of their relationship. Tyler Hoechlin is exceptional as young Michael Sullivan, chosen from over 2,000 hopefuls, and combines fresh naivety with ensuing horror as the reality of his life is revealed. Jude Law is memorable as the photographer who shoots people (before and after they are dead), and Stanley Tucci is well cast as the mobster, Frank. Itís a superbly made film Ė from Jill Bilcockís editing to Thomas Newmanís melodic score. I also love the way the camera glides from one scene to the next, allowing us to be a part of this story of redemption and salvation. It could also be said that it is cinematographer Conrad L. Hallís film. Each scene bears his stamp. Road to Perdition is filled with irony and paradoxes Ė perhaps thatís what makes it such a satisfying experience.
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ROAD TO PERDITION (MA)
CAST: Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Tyler Hoechlin, Jude Law, Stanley Tucci, Jennifer Jason Leigh
PRODUCER: Richard D. Zanuck, Dean Zanuck, Sam Mendes
DIRECTOR: Sam Mendes
SCRIPT: David Self (novel by Max Allan Collins, Richard Piers Rayne)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Conrad L. Hall ASC
EDITOR: Jill Bilcock
MUSIC: Thomas Newman
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Dennis Gassner
RUNNING TIME: 116 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Fox
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 10, 2002