Review: Jack Foley
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio commentary by the director Sam
Mendes; 11 deleted scenes; HBO Special: 'The Making of Road to
Perdition'; CD soundtrack; Photo gallery (50 stills); Cast biographies;
Filmmakers biographies; Production notes.
AFTER unearthing the flip-side of the American dream and walking
away with an Oscar for American Beauty, British director Sam Mendes
now takes on the gangster genre
and emerges triumphantly.
Road To Perdition, his breathtaking follow-up, is a sweeping,
awe-inspiring and totally captivating crime saga that embraces
all of the big issues - father/son relationships, sin and redemption,
honour and betrayal - in a fresh and exciting way, while also
tipping its rain-soaked hat to the very best that Coppola, Leone
and De Palma have offered.
Based on the graphic novel by Max Allan Collins and Richard Piers
Rayner and set in and around 1930s Chicago, the movie tackles
the conflict between two fathers - Tom Hankss loyal hit
man, Michael Sullivan, and Paul Newmans respected Mob boss,
John Rooney - as they bid to protect their sons from the evils
of the life that they have chosen.
It is a dilemma made all the more difficult by the sons in question
- one a wide-eyed 12-year-old boy (beautifully-played by newcomer
Tyler Hoechlin) who witnesses a Mob killing after sneaking along
for a ride with his father, the other a reckless trouble-maker
(Daniel Craig), prone to violence, who craves the power his father
is so reluctant to bestow upon him.
Craig, more than anyone, provides the catalyst for the journey
the two fathers must make, when he attempts to cover up his latest
killing by wiping out half of the Sullivan family (Michael Snrs
wife and youngest son) in a bid to remove any witnesses.
The slaying forces Newman to choose between the son he wishes
he had (Hanks, now forced on the run and vowing revenge), and
the one that he has (a cowardly hot-head ill-suited to the responsibility
ahead of him); a decision that can only end in tragedy.
Mendes states: "That is the core of the story: two men protecting
their children. In the end, what can be more important than that?"
Little wonder, then, that the film maintains such a vice-like
grip on your emotions, as these two giants of the silver screen
wrestle with their responsibilities as fathers, businessmen and
Hanks, venturing into far darker territory than ever before,
is simply superb as Michael Sullivan, a cold-hearted killer forced
to turn protector to his son and do battle against the very people
who took him in when young. It is a performance of restrained
frustration and quiet despair, coupled with the type of calculated
ruthlessness befitting a killer.
His scenes with Hoechlin are tremendously affecting, while his
rapport with Newman is electric - whether it be playing a piano
duet at the beginning of the movie, or being told that this
is the life we chose
and there is only one guarantee: none
of us will see heaven, towards the end of it.
Newman, meanwhile, mesmerises, without ever having to showboat.
It is a performance which is every bit as effective as Brandos
turn in The Godfather, and which smacks of regret throughout.
Expect him to feature prominently come Oscar time.
Mendes also infuses the film with a poetry reserved for the classics,
treading a nice line between the characters and their actions
and drawing on several film references for his set pieces (everything
from Miller's Crossing to Once Upon A Time In America and so forth)
- yet there are several moments of genius to savour, not least
during the final 20 minutes.
The director is clearly a perfectionist and not a frame feels
wasted, nor a supporting player overlooked - with Jude Law the
pick of the bunch as a sinister photographer-turned-assassin.
Road To Perdition may be a euphemism for the journey to hell
undertaken by Hanks throughout the movie, as well as the name
of the town he wishes to take his son, but for film buffs everywhere,
it is an unmissable ride through cinema heaven. In a word, it