Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Road to Perdition (2002)

TOP 100 FILMS: #61

After his son witnesses a crime,Michael Sullivan's (Tom Hanks) wife and younger son are killed by his accomplice, Connor Rooney (Daniel Craig), son of crime boss John Rooney (Paul Newman). Michael's only option now is to go on the run with his son in tow, but things will not be easy for the two as the silent assassin, Harlen (Jude Law) is hot on their trail.

When I first saw Road to Perdition back upon its release I had to sit back and process everything I just saw. I was mesmerized, astounded, and yet in all the melancholy and subtle distress of the film I found an odd sense of beauty, a period piece overlooked by those fearful of harming the myth of Tom Hanks, in Mendes' somber 2002 road film I found a masterpiece. Amazingly well acted, Road to Perdition is as much an on the run film as it is a movie about the struggles of family, a disconnected father asked to do horrible things for a family that will never understand him. This relationship developed between Michael and his son is raw, authentic, and heartfelt. Through their subtle moments of expression we find complex characters struggling with morality and their desire to connect with one another.

It doesn't hurt Mendes that he has assembled a cast to die for. Even the bit players, Ciaran Hinds, Dylan Baker, and Stanley Tucci are scene stealers. Paul Newman is engrossing, dark, and yet contains an odd look at the father figure side of these characters. He's distant and yet wants to connect with them, forced to make tough decisions about their lives, and his own. He's what Michael may have become had the events not transpired in the way they did. Yet in that regard Hanks handles this transformation of character perfectly. Asked to play the father and the assassin, the quiet killer and the parental lover, Hanks elevates each scene he's in with a sense of beauty. Then on the other side of things Craig is perfect as the hotheaded son whose actions lead all these characters into a downward spiral, while Law is on target as the mysterious assassin hired to do the job. Even newcomer Tyler Hoechlin, who is asked the impossible task of paring up with the likes of Hanks and Craig, holds his own in every moment.

With such brilliant acting Mendes is allowed to team up with cinematographer Conrad L. Hall to create a dark, and yet episodic 1930s tale. Mendes' talent for characters and action in non-action scenes creates an element of tension that really grabs ahold of the viewer, carrying the film through many moments of silent understanding between our characters. This is where David Self excels as a writer. Self never tries to force dialogue, create something that's not there, and in return we're allowed to watch the non-verbal dialogue of our characters, their subtle moments of depression, anger, and caring. Their way of looking at things and dealing with situations. But when you combine all three you get one of the most amazing scenes in film. The final gunfight between Rooney and Michael is perhaps one of the all time great cinematic moments. Silent, and yet loud, dark and yet finalizing, there's so much in that 30seconds to a minute I've watched the film several times over just for that moment. This truly is one of my all time favorite works of modern cinema.

A dark and beautiful affair, A Road to Perdition is one of the masterpieces of modern cinema, and should be appreciated far more than it has been.

3 better thoughts:

MovieNut14 said...

I reviewed this movie a few months ago. Check it out!

filmgeek said...

I Sky +ed this months ago. I really should get round to watching it. I think it's the only Sam Mendes film I haven't seen and I love his work

Road to Perdition Soundtrack said...

Road To perdition is an unusual story of passion, revenge, and self-discovery. Road to Perdition is a sad but a remarkable film. I was however disappointed that the family had to die, but it was predictable.

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