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Michael Sullivan (Tom Hanks) works for John Rooney (Paul Newman) as a henchman, quietly eliminating anyone who crosses the interests of the gang one way or another. Rooney adopted him as a kid, like a son, and treats him like one – a better son than the weakling Connor Rooney (Daniel Craig ) will ever be. But Michael is desperate that his own son, only 12 (Tyler Hoechlin), does not follow in his father’s deadly footsteps. So when the young Michael learns what his father does the hard way, and Connor threatens the stability of the ‘family’, Michael Snr has to take desperate measures to save his son’s future. He takes the road to Perdition, with tragic results.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
I am really heartbroken that Sam Mendes cast Tom Hanks in this role. Now that I’m seeing the DVD, it hits me even harder. It’s such a wonderful film in every other way. I love this film for all its fabulous accomplishments, which are legion, but Tom Hanks is WRONG. He can’t kill in cold blood. Sorry, it’s not a good choice. It’s been compared to The Godfather as a great gangster flick – but The Godfather cast was perfect. (Not that you asked, but I’d have cast Clive Owen….) 

Yet the film is so meticulous in every other way, you have to marvel at the combination of talents and crafts required to pull it off, from cinematography (and that includes lighting, film stock, camera angles etc) to editing and music, production design and direction, performance and script. The relationships remind me of those in Gladiator, between the disappointing, badly flawed son, the ruling father and his General. Invented as a graphic novel, but perfected as a movie, Road to Perdition is gripping human drama posing questions about human nature which gangster films of or about the period never even consider. Like the collision of morals over the Christian faith and bloody criminality. Like the impact of your life on your kids. Like your standing as a human being. One could argue that the film’s nostalgic mood and sombre tone somehow romanticise the killings, but I think that the moral issue at the core of the film, about the various father and son relationships portrayed, put those killings in context. 

The transfer to DVD is immaculate. Conrad Hall’s fabulous images are even more potent close up and as crisp as HD or 3D. The sound is bright, deep, rich, embracing. Sink into it.

Sam Mendes provides great value in his commentaries (both the film and the deleted scenes) and aims to shed light on the creative decisions. This he does well. And his intelligent remarks open up the film’s themes as well as its crafts to us with generous and candid comment. I am reminded by his remarks about the often arbitrary nature of the creative process. And that if throws up a wonderful result, it’s often by accident. Of course, the accident can’t happen without valid creative coin….

This is a DVD for the cognoscenti, for anyone who wants to take a deeper step into the filmmaking process. The extras offer opportunities to go deeper into the rationale of the choice the filmmakers made, and is the ideal companion to the film’s grappling with some of the larger themes of our humanity. 

(But it doesn’t overcome the casting of Tom Hanks….)

Published March 6, 2003

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CAST: Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Jude Law

DIRECTOR: Sam Mendes

RUNNING TIME: 113 minutes

PRESENTATION: 16 X 9 2.35:1; Audio: English 5.1

SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio Commentary by Director Sam Mendes; 11 Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary (22 mins); HBO Special – The Making of Road to Perdition; CD soundtrack promo; Photo Gallery (50 stills); Cast/Filmmaker biographies; production notes

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Fox Home Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: March 5, 2003 (to Rent and to Own)

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