Road to Perdition is tacitly expressive, emotionally charged, subtle in its treatment and unconventional in its technicalities. The movie, directed by Sam Mendes, is a masterful screen adaptation of the popular graphic novel of the same name. Max Allan Collins is the author of this brilliant masterpiece.
Michael Sullivan (Tom Hanks) is a hit man for an Irish Mafia family headed by John Rooney (Paul Newman), who is also Michael’s surrogate father. Rooney’s unrestrained affection for Michael provokes envy in the heart of his blood son, Connor (Daniel Craig).
and after a series of unfortunate events, Michael has no choice but to escape with his 12 year old son, Michael Jr. (Tyler Hoechlin), to seek refuge in a small town called Perdition in Michigan. The journey that ensues is beautifully crafted and explores Michael Jr’s emotional dilemma on realizing his father’s grave way of life.
The film, set in the time of Great Depression of the 1930s, when the world was facing an economic crises after what we know as the Black Tuesday of October 29, 1929, in the United Stated. The movie employs subtle imagery to bring out the harshness of those straitened times. Winter snow refuses to melt, like the dry coldness in the hearts of the characters. But as the film progresses, and the father and son are nearer to the journey’s end, warmth fills up the atmosphere, and bright sun seeps into the frames. Thomas Newman’s soundtrack is haunting and complements the emotional intensity of the plot.
As for the performances by the lead actors, they are memorable. Tom Hanks’ character is a man of few words and the emotional complexities of the heart of a father, concerned about his child’s protection, are presented through his facial expressions alone. Hanks has mastered the art of expressing a thousand emotions without uttering a single word, which makes him such an extraordinary actor. Paul Newman, the anti-hero of yesteryears, performs with the ease and grace of the acting genius he is known to be. These are seasoned actors who have the ability to touch one and all.
Usually not the centre of interest for a regular movie watcher, use of lighting in this film is outstanding and will surely be noticed. The scene where Tom Hanks is about to enter into a gun fight, becomes classic as we see him stepping out of the brilliant light of the street lamps and into the dark, unforgiving world of crime. In this context, the cinematography of Conrad Hall was brilliant. The movie was filmed in downtown Chicago and a town named Pullman, and a chilling backdrop was provided throughout most parts of the movie, to stress on the personalities and situations that the characters were in.
The movie is different from the novel. The son narrates the story as an adult in the novel, while in the movie; he is a still a young child, giving a child like understanding to the viewers. Other than this, most of the elements of the novel and the movie script are the same.
Violence and crime rend the human soul and make man impervious to his own sensitivity. The story is primarily about a father’s relentless struggle to protect his son from such crime and violence. It is a true work of art, and to call it a pure Mafia film would just ruin the charm of the brilliant effort that has been put in, towards the creation of Road to Perdition.