For those of you that don’t know, perdition is the loss of the soul, eternal damnation, and utter destruction. To travel the road to perdition is then of course to head towards hell. Even those that aren’t religious can understand that the concept of heaven and hell isn’t far fetched if they are obtainable while on earth. After all, if the kingdom of heaven is at hand isn’t hell underfoot?
And while I’m “hilarious”, “Road to Perdition” is most definitely not a cheerful stroll through the park. The basic story is this, Michael ‘The Angel of Death’ Sullivan (Tom Hanks) is a hit man for the Irish mafia (a subsection of Al Capone’s Chicago based crime conglomerate). Sullivan is an orphan taken in by the head of the local “mob 666”, John Rooney (Paul Newman) and raised to be a cold hearted, well respected, and top of the line killer. Rooney’s son Conner (Daniel Craig) is jealous of Rooney’s affection for Sullivan, which means when Sullivan’s son Michael (Tyler Hoechlin) witnesses Sullivan kill two men Conner has the perfect excuse to kill. (This soap opera brought to you by the Devil.) Sullivan and son Michael are required to travel the midwest in order to protect themselves and provide time so Sullivan can figure out ways to get revenge.
I can say without a doubt that the movie is exceptionally well directed and most beautifully shot. Of course we can expect no less from Sam Mendes and Conrad Hall who last teamed up to do “American Beauty”; Hall is also well know for filming such greats as “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and “Marathon Man”. This film is so beautiful it almost brought me to tears.
Alas, I was little touched the story itself. We are asked at the beginning whether we think Michael’s father is a decent man or has no good in him at all (ckissssk. kaaaah.. Luuuuke. ckisssssk.). Of this I offer no opinion, a man that kills is bad, no doubt, a man that loves his family is good, of course.
But for Hanks the role of killer is difficult to pull off. He is an amazing actor, maybe the best American cinema has to offer, and while at times in the film I wanted to believe that he was capable of killing, most of the time his eyes showed only innocence. I just wanted to hug that big teddy bear, and encourage him to play chopsticks at the piano like he did when he was just a big kid.
Besides what might be called a miscast role I also feel Jude Law’s part as the crazed killer for hire, Harlen ‘The Reporter’ Maguire, could have been better “developed” (chuckle). There was a lot of potential to provide us with an “image” (so funny) of a deranged killer who was a photographer obsessed with the macabre, but the role remained limited. And while I’m on the subject of things underdeveloped, the farm folk that help Sullivan and Michael could have been given more than 3 lines so that we can get an idea of who they are.
But perhaps what under whelmed me the most about this film was the relationship between father and son, a key element of the movie. Except for a few moments of humor and one instance of heart to heart communication, I felt Michael and Sullivan never gained an understanding of who each other was, which of course may be why Michael is asking us if his father is a good man; he just doesn’t know.
Nonetheless the film scores high marks. I expected no less from this team of creative movie engineers. If you are planning on seeing the film, be warned, it is violent. Regardless of the fact that the blood is few and far between it is still there and can be gruesome. If you are ok with moderate violence and feel up for a purposely slower paced amazingly beautiful film then go get a ticket to “Perdition”.