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The Road to Perdition Review

By Shawn McKenzie 07/14/2002

Warning!  Minor spoilers!

Every year Tom Hanks makes a bid for the Oscar.  This year his bid is The Road to Perdition.  Will he get it this year?  Maybe…


The Road to Perdition is about Michael Sullivan (Hanks), the enforcer of an Irish Mob.  He is a family man too, with wife Annie (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and two sons Michael Jr. (Tyler Hoechlin) and Peter (Liam Aiken.)  In addition to that, he has a loyalty to the organization’s leader, John Rooney (Paul Newman.)  One day, while on a job, Michael Jr. witnesses what his father really does for a living.  Another person on that job, Rooney’s adult son Connor (Daniel Craig), finds out that Michael Jr. was there, and in his warped logic, decides to bump off the entire Sullivan family.  The only people home at the Sullivan family are Annie and Peter, and unfortunately, Connor succeeds in killing them.  When Michael discovers them dead and that Connor is responsible, he takes Jr. and proceeds to go after Connor.


Will The Road to Perdition garner any Oscars?  I believe it will.  The possible contenders will be, of course Hanks, Newman, and Jude Law, who plays Harlan Maguire, a freelance newspaper photographer who specializes in taking pictures of dead people (many of which he kills himself), who is sent to take out Michael.  In addition, possible Oscar nominations will go to cinematography, costuming, and art direction, not to mention Oscar winner (for American Beauty) Sam Mendes’ directing and best picture.


How many of those Oscar nominations does it deserve?  All of them, except for Hanks…maybe.  Huh?  It may require repeated viewing, but twenty years of Hanks playing good guys is a hard one to shake.  I had a hard time fully believing him as a killer.  I am still wondering what his motivation was for playing the role as he did.  The best I could come up with was that he was portraying a good man who just owed his life to the mob for raising him, so he reluctantly did his job, though he really didn’t want to.  That was the reason I never saw a mean, evil look on his face (except during a scene in a church when he lit some candles for his wife and son.)  Hanks probably figured the character was not supposed to be that way, unlike Law’s character, who went the extra length to look mean and twisted (even going so far as to stain his teeth.)


Other than that minor issue with Hanks, Perdition is a beautiful picture that will fill you with emotion at the end.  Maybe after repeated viewings (or if Hanks ever does what Robin Williams has done this year and star in a trilogy of twisted movies), I will believe he can play a bad guy.  He has done some amazing things in the last twenty years, so I believe it will happen.



Get the original score album by Thomas Newman:

Road to Perdition (Score)


Get the graphic novel by Max Allan Collins and Richard Rayner:

Road to Perdition



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