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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
15
Cast
Tom Hanks
Paul Newman
Jude Law
Daniel Craig
Tyler Hoechlin
Liam Aiken
Jennifer Jason Leigh.
Directors
Sam Mendes.
Screenwriters
David Self.
Running Time
117 minutes

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Road To Perdition
Emotional and compelling exploration of the gangster myth by Yank-fixated Brit, Sam Mendes.


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Plot
Following a messy murder, hit man Michael Sullivan is betrayed by the man he called father, formidable Irish hood John Rooney. Leaving behind a murdered family and with a killer on his tail, Sullivan goes on the run, hungry for revenge.


Review
Road To Perdition
The year is 1931, and dapper immigrant mobsters are running an icy America with big guns and deadly honour codes. You know, the stuff of cinematic pearls since time immemorial, and the canvas on which Max Allan Collins and Richard Piers Rayner painted their graphic novel (posh comic book).

It's this emotional exploration of the gangster myth that Yank-fixated Brit Sam Mendes was drawn to after his blistering debut, 'American Beauty'. 'Perdition' translates as 'damnation', and with wry whimsy is also the name of the elusive Midwest town planned as sanctuary for enforcer Michael Sullivan's young son, desperate to find love in his cold-blooded father.

This is a moody, pristine study of paternal woe, localised to an Illinois chapter of the mob run by Newman's ageing patriarch, a man tormented by a trigger-happy dolt of an heir, Connor (Craig, slimeballing with relish). His is the devilry that rips apart Sullivan's life, sending echoes up to Chicago, in the form of a slick Stanley Tucci as real-life Capone general, Frank Nitti. Gangsters are the ultimate dysfunctional family.

Chastely violent and sombre, the movie is a blood-rush of visual magnificence (take a bow, cinematographer Conrad L. Hall). However, it's at times weighed down by its own gravity, and perhaps too eager to touch its forelock to Mendes' forebears, Scorsese and Coppola, not to mention John Ford's scope and Michael Powell's lushness.

Comparisons with 'The Godfather', 'The Untouchables' and 'Miller's Crossing' will fly, but the true reference point here is 'Unforgiven'. Sullivan's journey into a hell of his own making is pure William Munney. It falls short of Eastwood's classic, but not by very much.

Mendes conducts with a grace the material can't quite handle, and we do not hear clearly the earnest notes of the designated quest for salvation. Look, it's Hanks and Newman together! As crooks! Worry not, though, we've still got Jude Law as the real scumbag, a Weegee-styled hit man with stained molars and a porkpie hat, who shoots his victims with both gun and camera.

Hanks - hunkered down in a heavy skin with a threadbare moustache and the rigid posture of moral deep-freeze - works hard not to force things. Neither hero nor anti-hero, for the audience it proves too taxing to shake the notion that this is Forrest Gump doing his best Clint Eastwood. Amoral? Ambiguous? Evil? Too big a leap.

Newman, meanwhile, is electrifying. Coating Rooney in dead eyes and a soft smile, his conflation of the jovial grandfather with flints of absolute darkness is a performance that chimes with (and betters) Brandon's Don Corleone. His is the crowning speech, power's inevitable corruption writ heavy across his soul: 'This is the life we chose... And there is only one guarantee: none of us will see heaven'.

When he and Sullivan finally cross swords, Mendes pulls out a moment of transcendent cinema: a speechless sequence washed in the film's signature downpour, lit to throw Tommy guns and fedoras into stark silhouettes - you watch agape as simple celluloid transforms into poetry. Mendes has the eye, if not yet the ear, to be amongst the greats he honours so much. The luxury is that this is only film two.


Verdict
This is supremely crafted, grown-up moviemaking that never escapes its pulp origins. The themes are well worn and the structure predictable, but these are gangster cliches as gift-wrapped by Fortnum & Mason, and the grandeur of the film slips down like fine caviar.


Reviewed by Ian Nathan

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Road To Perdition
Empire Star Rating

Road to Perdition Review

Somber, stately, and beautifully mounted, Mendes' Road to Perdition is a well-crafted mob movie that explores the ties between fathers and sons. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by the film man at 15:58, 23 February 2012 | Report This Post


Meh ! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by elimonator at 02:15, 19 May 2010 | Report This Post


Road to Perdition

A underappreciated new classic that grows in esteem as it gets older. Great work by Hanks, Law, Craig, and Newman ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by lynnshep at 18:30, 08 May 2010 | Report This Post


Road to Perdition

A underappreciated new classic that grows in esteem as it gets older. Great work by Hanks, Law, Craig, and Newman ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by lynnshep at 18:30, 08 May 2010 | Report This Post


I have to say that besides the wonderfully shot action, the best thing in this movie is Paul Newman. He stands out in every scene and this is a fitting way to end a glittering career. The way he says the line: "None of us will ever see heaven" is amazing byt the way he stands and stares with those blue eyes seeminlgy half-filled with regret and half-filled with a love of his surrogate son. Tom Hanks is Tom Hanks in this picture and only ocassionly did he sell the gangster image to me. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by davelogan at 04:15, 26 January 2009 | Report This Post


I-N-C-R-E-I-D-B-L-E

A masterpiece in the fullest sense of the word. Epic and Eternal ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by blaud at 13:50, 26 September 2008 | Report This Post


I-N-C-R-E-I-D-B-L-E

A masterpiece in the fullest sense of the word. Epic and Eternal ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by blaud at 13:50, 26 September 2008 | Report This Post


I've just watched this on Film 4 for the second time, and enjoyed it even more than the first time. This is a sad and beautiful film, as much about how a father and son come together and learn to show their love for each other in the worst of circumstances as it is about anything else. The period is beautifully evoked and the visuals are fabulous, and Tom Hanks is so good that I think he is totally believable in this role, despite being so readily identified with previous parts like Forrest Gump... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by gloppy at 23:13, 15 December 2007 | Report This Post


This afternoon I watched d To Perditionm I've had on DVD for a while but never got round to watching it. Sam Mende's second film is a 1930s gangster film based on a graphic novel. I really enjoyed it. It depicts 1930's America really well, and through some beautiful shots and a great soundtrack it takes you right back to the time of prohibition and gangster run booze joints. It has a very strong cast with Hanks, Paul Newman, Jude Law (who plays an ugly character for a change) and Daniel Craig... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by ukedge87 at 17:04, 19 November 2007 | Report This Post


ok its not American beauty - it was never going to be - this is still a damn good film - Hanks,Newman,Craig were exellent even thought jude law was good which is something i never thought id say. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by bobbyperu at 08:47, 23 October 2007 | Report This Post


ok its not American beauty - it was never going to be - this is still a damn good film - Hanks,Newman,Craig were exellent even thought jude law was good which is something i never thought id say. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by bobbyperu at 08:47, 23 October 2007 | Report This Post


Being such a big fan of Mendes’ last movie, American Beauty, it took me a surprisingly long time to get round to watching Road to Perdition. It wasn’t that the subject didn’t interest me, and the majority of its reviews seemed positive, but it all seemed quite pedestrian for the man behind one of the most exciting films of the last decade. Watching it, I’m not entirely convinced I was wrong, but that would surely be to deny Mendes a very well-made movie indeed. The plo... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Ignacio at 11:13, 22 August 2006 | Report This Post


Being such a big fan of Mendes’ last movie, American Beauty, it took me a surprisingly long time to get round to watching Road to Perdition. It wasn’t that the subject didn’t interest me, and the majority of its reviews seemed positive, but it all seemed quite pedestrian for the man behind one of the most exciting films of the last decade. Watching it, I’m not entirely convinced I was wrong, but that would surely be to deny Mendes a very well-made movie indeed. The plo... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Ignacio at 11:13, 22 August 2006 | Report This Post


Road To Perdition

Mendes's sophomore effort was criminally overlooked at the Oscars yet this a truly wonderful piece of period film making. Set against the mythical, ever emotive backdrop of the Great Depression in America's vast mid-western expanses, this has visuals so beautiful and a score (courtesy of the omnipotent Thomas Newman) so affecting that Tom Hanks's admirable performance, in which he plays strongly against type, is often overshadowed. Yet it is Paul Newman's turn as mob boss John Rooney that ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Eomer_King at 19:18, 27 May 2006 | Report This Post


RE: A road to perdition but a wonderful journey nonetheless

I watched this quite a while ago, and although I can't remember everything that happened, I do recall that this was a fantastic film. I remember being really impressed with Tom Hanks in this. He's pretty cool as a bad boy. ... More

Posted by AgentGoth at 09:00, 12 April 2006 | Report This Post


RE: A road to perdition but a wonderful journey nonetheless

Tom Hanks' character was a very diverse role from anything he's ever been in before, which could have been a major fall for him in his career. However, as always Hanks get's it right and develops the dire life on the run to perfection. One of the best mafia movies since The Godfather and Newman's inclusion doesn't hurt! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Jessica_ca_ca_ca at 08:58, 12 April 2006 | Report This Post


A road to perdition but a wonderful journey nonetheless

An excellent film that I thoroughly enjoyed throughout. Has Tom Hanks ever been in a bad film? A moving soundtrack accompanies this classic ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by BarryNorman at 01:40, 12 April 2006 | Report This Post


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