Road to Perdition is a powerful, beautifully made film about fathers and sons and sin and redemption, that overrides minor flaws through beautiful directing and first class performances.
Tom Hanks plays Michael Sullivan, a tough hit man in 1931 Chicago, whose loyalty and sense of duty keep him working for John Rooney (film legend Paul Newman), a friendly but firm Irish mob boss who cares about the men he works with but will not hesitate to kill anyone who gets in his way. Rooney treats Sullivan like a son. Rooney’s real son, Connor (Daniel Craig) is paranoid and impulsive.
Sullivan keeps his family out of his work, but when his curious son Michael, Jr. (Tyler Hoechlin) sees something he isn’t supposed to see, Rooney’s jealous and paranoid son Connor (Daniel Craig) tries to make sure he doesn’t talk by killing Sullivan’s wife (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and youngest son (Liam Aiken) but missing Michael Jr. The rest of the film follows Sullivan on a road trip with his surviving son as he seeks vengeance on the hiding and protected Connor and trying to avoid his former affiliates. Along the way he robs banks, making sure the bankers give him money from other crooks (“If I find out this belonged to some poor farmers, I’m going to be very unhappy,” he tells one (not exact quote)) while his son drives the getaway car. To make matters worse, there is a sadistic, despicable man who photographs murder scenes (Jude Law, amazingly turned into something unsightly) on Sullivan’s trail, and he’s willing to assist the murder process to get a good shot. Adventures ensue, and the Sullivans meet many people and go many places with mixed results until the film’s inevitable conclusion.
This is one of the best made films so far this year, and Mendes, Hanks, and Newman are sure to be remembered during Oscar predictions at the end of the year. The story, too is interesting, with the father-son relationships and David Self’s (Thirteen Days) adapted screenplay being both realistic and intriguing. However, some important factors, such as more about Jude Law’s character and some essential aspects of Sullivan and Rooney’s relationship are ignored, as this ambitious film is scared of being overlong, an oft-criticized quality of epic dramas like The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile. It leaves the viewer to decide, but if it had just gone out on a limb there, the film could’ve been saved from having some baffling moments at its conclusion. Nonetheless, it is undoubtedly one of this year’s best films, and I’m hoping there will be deleted scenes on the DVD.
Parents should know that there is predictably coarse language from the 1930s gangsters, as well as some bloody murder scenes, always by gunfire. A woman and small child are killed off screen, and the main characters are often in peril.
Families who watch this movie should ask why Mr. Sullivan was so bent on killing the murderer of his family, and even what makes criminals likeable in movies.
Families who enjoy this film may also enjoy some of the classic films chronicling lives and crimes, such as Bonnie and Clyde and the Coen brothers’ Miller’s Crossing. As epic, family drama, and crime story, the The Godfather films are unbeatable.