A mythic graphic novel transposed to the silver screen, ‘Road to Perdition’ was released in 2002 and, save for the thundering soundtrack, it still feels like it could have been a product of Hollywood’s Technicolor-fueled golden age. This is what the Blu-ray format is all about. I’ll get to the technical details in a moment, but first let’s discuss the movie. In order to do so clearly, let me also present this reviewer’s history with the film:
As a fan of ‘American Beauty’ and the legendary cinematographer Conrad Hall (‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’, ‘Cool Hand Luke’), I was practically frothing at the mouth when this film premiered back in ’02. But a funny thing happened. I left the theatre feeling cold. I didn’t love it and thus, haven’t seen the movie in its entirety since. Again, thank goodness for Blu-ray. Sitting down for this film with a huge TV and a home theater format able to nearly replicate a real cinematic experience, I finally had the reaction I had hoped for some years ago. Perhaps my expectations are lower now, not gripped with overhyped enthusiasm, but I suspect it’s also about having had a chance to live 30 percent more of my life. In growing up, in having a more complicated relationship with my own father, ‘Road to Perdition’ finally rings true.
Regardless of your own personal stories, of which there are infinite tales more interesting than mine, ‘Road to Perdition’ is part gripping thriller, part meditation on the mythic qualities of the father-son relationship. Tom Hanks play Michael Sullivan, a loving father and prohibition era mob enforcer for boss John Rooney (a grizzly Paul Newman). Since Sullivan was practically raised by Rooney, they are a symbolic father and son, a relationship that echoes Robert Duvall in ‘The Godfather’. One night, Rooney sends his literal son Conner (James Bond himself, Daniel Craig) with Sullivan to talk some sense into a disgruntled employee, but Sullivan’s son, Michael Jr., sneaks along and accidentally witnesses Conner gunning down the disgruntled employee. And thus begins a spiraling tale of tragedy, revenge, redemption, honor, and betrayal.
In my second viewing, this is a film that fires on all the proverbial cylinders. It’s dramatic, funny, heart-warming, and terrifying. The stars give powerhouse performances, and the supporting cast is a veritable fleet of talent — I suppose that’s what you have at your disposal as a filmmaker when you make your follow up to a Best Picture. The cinematography is outstanding, featuring deep shadowed rainy nights and epic mid-western landscapes, feeling both natural and stylized at the same time; both period and modern. The music by Thomas Newman is perhaps my second favorite score of his (behind the similiarly themed work he did for Frank Darabount on ‘The Shawshank Redemption’). It elevates the entire film, complementing emotions and enlarging the scale. Again, mythic is a fine adjective here.
Sorry to gush, sorry to toss my critical badge to the side of the road, but what the hell, sometimes you just connect with a film. ‘Road to Perdition’ blew me a way. I wouldn’t say it’s a perfect film, the second act can drag now and again, but over all, this is a gripping, thematic, thought provoking, grade-A B-movie. I can only hope I won’t get too excited for ‘Road to Purgatory’, the graphic novel’s sequel, which is currently being prepped for production.