Road To Perdition
Reviewed by David Kashimba
Photo provided by DreamWorks Pictures

Road To Perdition is above all a great father and son story. The father, Michael Sullivan (Tom Hanks), works for John Rooney (Paul Newman). Sullivan is an enforcer for the Irish mob headed by Rooney in the 1930s. Rooney thinks of Sullivan as an adopted son and trusts him more than his own son Connor (Daniel Craig).

Sullivan has a wife and two sons. The oldest, Michael Jr. (Tyler Hoechlin), is 12 years old and it is this father/son relationship that the film focuses on. Sullivan realizes that Michael Jr. is a lot like him, but he doesnít want his son following in his footsteps when he grows up.

Road To Perdition is also an excellent gangster film complete with old black cars, 30s style hats and Tommy guns. But the gangster activity never loses sight of the father/son relationships and how the gangster life affects those relationships. Reminiscent of Earnest Hemingwayís novel A Farewell To Arms, director Sam Mendes uses rain as a symbol of death. With Hemingway itís soldiers marching in the rain to their deaths. For Mendes itís gangster soldiers dishing out death and destruction in the downpour. The rain falls in buckets in this film and itís usually at night. Though not unusual weather for the Chicago area, it also says something about the gangster life, which is full of death, darkness and foreboding.

What happens when the sun finally shines on the life of a gangster? Youíll have to see the movie to learn the answer to that question. But the cinematography alone, by Conrad L. Hall, will transport you to another world where men may commit fearful acts but are still very much tied to the human race by their relationship to their own families Ė their loyalty, protection and love for their children transcends the darkness of their profession.

There have been many comparisons between this film and The Godfather. Itís true that both have love of family as its core but in The Godfather the character of Michael becomes a tragic figure because he chooses the gangster profession and the very power he builds to protect his family ends up isolating him from those he loves. In Road To Perdition Michael Sullivan is a tragic figure because heís trapped in the gangster profession, but the sadness and melancholy he bears actually draws him closer to his family and his resolve that his son Michael Jr. wonít become part of it.

Road To Perdition keeps most of its violence off screen and concentrates on taking the time to build memorable characters and relationships instead of drawing the audience along from one violent action scene to another. Itís a breath of fresh air in this genre and well worth seeing.

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