Road to Perdition

Road to Perdition (2002)

Road to Perdition is available to rent, buy or stream.

Can you name the film that won the Best Picture Oscar in 2003? I am sure many of you will know the answer without turning to Google; it was Rob Marshall’s Chicago. Meanwhile, Roman Polanski walked away with Best Director for The Pianist, a highly controversial choice due to his history. However, that same year Sam Mendes‘ Road to Perdition was all but ignored, walking away with just won Oscar for the cinematography of Conrad Hall, who had passed away just a few months before. Of course, anyone who follows the Oscars will know that the winning films are not always the ones that find longevity despite their initial success. Sometimes it is the one that got away that becomes an undisputed classic. Mendes Road to Perdition is, without doubt, the one that got away as Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Daniel Craig, and Tyler Hoechlin give some of the best performances of their careers.

Based on the graphic novel by Max Allan Collins, Road to Perdition views the mob through a lens of family, loyalty and business, much like The Godfather. There are no clear heroes or villains, despite many pointing to Connor (Daniel Craig) as the latter. Michael Sullivan (Tom Hanks) is the story’s antihero – a dedicated family man who has given up his security to offer his family what they need. For years Sullivan has purposefully held his family at a distance, his relationship with his eldest son Michael Jr. (Tyler Hoechlin), a casualty of his loyalty to John Rooney (Paul Newman), a surrogate father to him from a young age. Sullivan is a killer and a gangster – his family man image a mirage as he carries out Rooney’s wishes. But when Sullivan finds himself on the wrong side of Rooney’s business, he is forced to run for his life with Michael in tow, where he is faced with the fact that he doesn’t know his boy at all as he enacts his revenge. But this is no simple tale of vengeance, family and mob rule. Road to Perdition is about the complex relationships between fathers and their sons.

Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice says, “The sins of the father are to be laid upon the children.” Mendes takes this and weaves a complex tapestry that sees two fathers take different roads as the film nears its unforgettable climax. One accepts his fate and acknowledges the damage his past actions have had, while the other buries his head, never accepting his mistakes until he faces his destiny. Bathed in the stunning cinematography of Conrad Hall and the haunting score of Thomas Newman, Road to Perdition is a sublime character study of two fathers and two sons divided by violence and silence.

Perdition may be the name of the peaceful and safe lakeside location Michael and his son attempt to reach, but its meaning runs deeper; after all, Perdition is defined as a state of eternal punishment and damnation into which a sinful and unrepentant person passes after death. Michael Sullivan’s only wish is to save his son from his mistakes. As a result, Road to Perdition is a story populated by ghosts and haunted by past choices.

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