Retro Review: Road to Perdition

“Even innocence can be dangerous” is the most likely conclusion you may draw when witnessing the new film, “Road to Perdition”.

Tom Hanks stars as Michael Sullivan, a troubled Irish mob hit man who is pulled between his loyalty to mob-boss John Rooney (Paul Newman) and his adoring family. Sullivan is kind of like every other working man. He works to raise his two young boys and give them a better life than he. He knows that his life is forfeit and that he is doomed to have an infernal afterlife but he will do everything in his power to make sure his family doesn’t suffer the same fate.

The film’s story ignites when Sullivan’s oldest son Michael Jr. becomes curious to what his father actually does for a living. Michael takes it upon himself to find out and stows away in his father’s car one dark and rainy night. Michael witnesses an event that he should have never seen and that forces his father to go against everything he knows. Blood is shed in the aftermath and the Sullivans’ lives are changed forever.

“American Beauty” director Sam Mendes’ latest film “Road to Perdition” is really your typical mob film and not exactly your typical family drama. It embraces both concepts and brings forth a new unforeseen majesty.

Each scene is literally carved into the celluloid as a painting matted with great performances. It’s mind-boggling to watch because each scene is so beautifully presented. There were some scenes that reminded me of Rockwell paintings and others that reminiscent of a Monet or Van Gogh. The scenery was as much a character in this presentation as the performances of Hollywood veterans like Hanks and Newman.

Tom Hanks delivers yet another Oscar-worthy performance as the tortured father. There has been a lot of speculation that this role is a departure from his usual fare but I beg to differ. This character has a lot in common with the role he played in “Saving Private Ryan”. Each man has a good soul and just wants what is best for his family. Each character has a strong loyalty and devotion to their jobs. Hanks embraces these characteristics as he pulls us into the world of Michael Sullivan.

I have always talked about the quieter moments in a film as the ones that reveal the most about the characters and their evolution. “Perdition” is filled to rafters with these kinds of moments. There is one scene where Michael Jr. runs to get his father for dinner and there is only silence as Michael walks down the hallway to his father’s room.

He watches his father put away his gun but the boy and the camera never enter the room but we feel just the same as the boy does for his father. This speaks volumes to Michael’s relationship with his father to that point. As the film moves forward we see more scenes involving the son watching his father each with a difference resonance. These scenes are pure magic and made me gasp.

I also enjoyed the twisted and determined portrayal of Maguire (played by Jude Law). This guy is creepy and was a much underrated character. I think when people talk about this film they will praise Hanks and Newman but Law maybe forgotten. Jude Law as an actor continues to impress and captivate me.

He has portrayed a “love-droid” in “A.I.” and a freedom fighter turned superstar sniper in “Enemy at the Gates” and with each of these performances Law loves his performance. Law knows how all about the characters he plays and often will even create a specific walk for them. He is truly becoming an actor among celluloid stars.

It isn’t often that you find a film that uses scenery, photography and music to perfection but in “Perdition” it is achieved. It will be pretty tough for a film this year to top the intensity, photography and somber of “Road to Perdition”. This is one of the finest films of the five years.

(5 out of 5)

So Says the Soothsayer.

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