Of fathers and sons
FATHERING SONS: Michael Sullivan Jr (Tyler Hoechlin) seeks comfort from his father (Tom Hanks)
Road to Perdition (ENGLISH)
<15,0m,,0>Cast: Paul Newman, Tom Hanks, Jude Law
Dir: Sam Mendes
THERE WAS considerable excitement and anticipation about Sam Mendes' next film after his debut feature, American Beauty, swept the Oscars in 1999 (Best Picture, director, screenplay and cinematography - Conrad Hall). And Road to Perdition is as different as it gets.
Moody and atmospheric (Hall has done a brilliant job), the film is about fathers and sons, a remorseless fate and a six-week road trip through a bleak Chicago landscape.
Road to Perdition is about two fathers - mob boss John Rooney and hit man of few words Michael Sullivan and two sons -- unstable heir apparent Connor Rooney and Michael Rooney Jr, all of 12 years desperately seeking his father's acceptance.
There is also the relationship between John Rooney and Michael Sullivan where Sullivan loves Rooney like a father and Rooney seems to prefer Sullivan to his own son.
It is Connor's jealousy for Sullivan that drives him to instigate a process that naturally has a bitter and violent end.
While the film is beautifully shot and lit - Hall has created poetry on film, and brilliantly acted, what Road... lacks is warmth.
It is almost as if Hall's dank, water soaked monochromatic frames have frozen the characters' heart.
The acting is A-grade. The way Tom Hanks plays Sullivan is a tribute to the actor who can effortlessly get into the skin of the character. Here he sheds his Mr Nice Guy skin for a reticent, emotionally stunted hit man who is just doing his job. Paul Newman is in full form as the colourful, charismatic mob boss Rooney and Tyler Hoechlin who makes his debut is an amazingly assured Michael Sullivan Jr.
Jude Law is an exciting young actor and here he is beyond brilliant as the reptilian parasitic hit man Maguire. The character is also the most interesting because he is the only one who is out of the father-son orbit and also makes his own choices. He is not driven by a blind, vindictive preordained fate.
Law plays Maguire, the press photographer who moonlights as a hit man with efficient precision. The look is of something that creeps under stones, the sallow skin, the rotten teeth and ruined hands, which come from working with photographic fluids, combine to create a frightening repulsive character on screen and full credit to the good looking Law for making Maguire so believable.
The detailing is phenomenal - from the costumes where browns, blacks and dark greens predominate (it was Depression) to the vintage cars, the movie in Mendes words pays "witness to the time rather than announce it."
This is a movie that works as a paean to the art and craft of filmmaking; its Oscar nominations (Paul Newman for supporting actor, art direction, cinematography, original score, sound and sound editing) are a testimony to that. It is a good film and if it had a warm heart, it would have been a great one.
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