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Tuesday, February 22, 2011



Road to Perdition is a 2002, Oscar-winning dramatic film directed by Sam Mendes. It's an adaptation of a graphic novel of the same name. It tells the story of Michael Sullivan (Tom Hanks), a muscle man for a big-time bootlegger named John Rooney (Paul Newman) in the 1930s. When John's son Connor (Daniel Craig) makes a mess of a hit with Michael's son Michael Jr. (Tyler Hoechlin) secretly watching, both the older and younger Sullivan's are sworn to secrecy; however, Connor doesn't think that the boy will keep his word. While Michael Sr. is out on a job, Connor goes to the Sullivan home and kills Michael's wife (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and his youngest son, Peter. Both Michael Sr. and Michael Jr. find the bodies of their family and quickly leave town, fearing for their lives. They travel to Chicago in the hopes of gaining the protection and the good graces of Frank Nitti (Stanley Tucci), an under-boss in the Rooney organization. However, Nitti remains loyal to the Rooneys, instead employing a sociopath hitman (Jude Law) to kill the Sullivan men. On the run from the only profession he's ever known, Michael Sr. takes it upon himself to protect his remaining son and exact revenge on the man who killed his family.

The first thing you'll probably notice about Road to Perdition is the massively strong cast. Between Hanks, Newman, Law and Tucci, we have a total of eighteen Oscar nominations with three wins (two for Hanks; 1 for Newman). Add to the mix our current James Bond (Craig) and a very talented young star in Hoechlin, and you've got the makings of a fantastic ensemble cast. Hanks is steady as usual, delivering a performance a little unlike ones I've seen in the past. To be fair, I haven't seen a ton of Hanks' work, but I've seen enough of his real-life outgoing and manic personality that I know how different this role actually is. Hanks drew it back for Road to Perdition, bringing a very quiet performance despite the fact that he's essentially a hitman for the mob. It fit the tone perfectly. Newman is fantastic as he has always been and actually garnered one of his Oscar nominations for his role in this film. Craig continues to impress me more and more. Before his star-making turn in the most recent Bond films, I hadn't really heard of him aside from his appearance in 2003's Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, but he actually has some quality acting chops, as shown here (for another look at his acting range, you should check out 2005's The Jacket, where he has a small role). I also can't say enough about Jude Law in this flick. I know a lot of people who don't necessarily care for his brand of acting, but I've always rather liked him. He's not the greatest actor I've ever seen on-screen, but he holds his own. However, this may be a career-best performance, at least in my opinion. The character he brings to the screen is sufficiently creepy and definitely haunting, and Law presents the warped psychology quite well. I was thoroughly impressed.

To add to the fine acting, the audience is also given a fantastic story to follow. Road to Perdition could have easily become your average tale of revenge with Michael Sr. hellbent on destroying Connor Rooney. However, the addition of Michael Jr. to his plans alters Michael Sr.'s overall plan. We learn throughout the course of the story that Michael Sr. was always harder on Michael Jr. because he reminded him too much of himself, and that scared him. He didn't want his son to follow in his footsteps, and that fundamentally changes how Michael Sr. goes about everything in the film. We get to see the bonding of father and son as they forge the relationship that the boy had always wanted, even if it's under such straining and pressing circumstances. This side of the story keeps the film from becoming a rote and predictable film. That being said, I did see the finale coming from a half-mile away (I'd say a mile, but it wasn't quite that far). That might be the only thing keeping Road to Perdition from being an "A+" film, but my knowing in no way took away from the power of the ending. It's the way the movie has to end, so I hope you can see that for what it is.

I also have to give major props to Thomas Newman who composed an excellent (and Oscar-nominated) score for the film. Considering the amount of action and bloodshed that occurs throughout the movie, he could have crafted a heavy-hitting, action-like score; instead, he went with thoughtful, hitting more on the father-son bonding aspect of the story. It's quiet and beautiful and fits the film's tone absolutely seamlessly. Embedded below is a little piece of the score - I hope you like it!

All in all, Road to Perdition is a fantastic film that's worth watching for its story and for the fantastic level of acting brought to the table. If you're a consistent reader of this blog, you'll know that I give out my own film awards at the end of each year (here's the awards for 2010, for example). I have not posted my awards for 2002 - I may at some later date - but you should know just how big of a splash Road to Perdition made. (Side note: my personal awards are constantly changeable depending on films I continue to see; that's why this film could make the nominations for its year). After careful consideration, this film stole ten nominations in the awards for 2002, taking the wins for six, including Best Actor (Hanks), Best Dramatic Screenplay, Best Drama and Best Picture of the Year. If those own personal accolades aren't enough to sway you towards watching this film, I'm not sure what else to tell you.

Movie Review Summary:
Grade: A
Current All-Time Rank: Best - #85
2 Thumbs Up

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