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Road to Perdition
Every once in a while, a great film comes along to make you forget the long, lonely nights spent watching horrible films that never should have been made. Casablanca, The Godfather, Gone With the Wind, and Titanic are some of the films that make you forget everything that is going on in your life, and take you to a place that is beyond comprehension, but you swear is real. It envelops you, makes you think, and forces you to marvel at it. Road to Perdition is the best film of the year, and will live on in history as one of the great films.
Tom Hanks stars as Michael Sullivan - a hit man who has been trying to hide his profession from his children, hoping and praying that they will never end up like him. He has been working for a powerful Mafia Godfather, John Rooney (Paul Newman), who saved him when he had nothing and treats him like a son. One horrible night, there is an attempt to have Michael and his family killed, but Michael and his son, Michael, Jr.(Tyler Hoechlin), survive. Seeking vengeance for the loss of his beloved wife and youngest son, Michael Sr. vows to kill the man who ordered the hit, even if it costs him everything and everyone he has ever known.
Will Michael succeed? Can he protect his son? Will Rooney (Paul Newman) let him?
Road to Perdition has one of the most complex and rewarding stories that I can ever remember. Every character has conflicted motivations and feelings, yet, you can understand why they are taking the actions that they choose. Rooney loves Michael, but he can't let him kill get revenge, even if vengeance would normally be allowed for such a heinous crime, and Michael understands that. Michael loves Rooney, but
his hate and anger may supercede that feeling and cause him to take drastic actions, and even Rooney understands that. It is more than a moral quandary because it hits so close to the heart. Luckily, the film is placed in the hands of a true master.
With Road to Perdition, Sam Mendes (American Beauty) has proven that he must be counted among the greatest directors. He has created a film with a dark, somber, foreboding feel that continues throughout the film from beginning to end. Mendes sets the proper tone, and fills the film with amazing imagery that is haunting, captivating and emotionally moving. Whether it is a car driving down the road, someone's eyes in the rearview mirror, or the harrowing murders, Mendes uses every tool available to him (music, camera angles, pictures) to grab the audience and take us along on this tragic ride. Mendes and writer David Self don't fool us into believing that all will be OK in the end. No matter how safe things appear, the audience knows that no one can win this fight. These two will be looking at Oscar nominations next February, and I think their actors will also be there.
Newman AND Hanks. Hanks AND Newman. It is a duo that stands among the greatest pairings, and they deliver two amazing characters. And the young gun, Jude Law, is pretty good too. Hanks creates a steely character, but not though the dialogue. Hanks makes Michael stand out through the way he carries himself, moves, and gives off a conflicted mood and tension. Yet, he always shows a burning anger and fire in his eyes underneath that cold exterior. It is another in a long line of great performances, and it made me start waiting in eager anticipation for his next film, Catch Me If You Can (directed by Steven Spielberg, co-starring Leonardo DiCaprio, due at Christmas). It was a treat to see him acting with another legendary actor, Paul Newman.
Newman gives one of the most captivating performances of his career, one that can only come from a veteran who has lived life and knows how to draw on that experience to capture the moment. He has to convey the multiple personalities Rooney lives with - loving father, mercenary mob boss and iron fisted, respected elder statesman. Newman's climactic speech alone may have won him a second Oscar, an Oscar that is much more worthy than his first.
Joining this trio of great actors is Jude Law, who plays a weirdo, pyschotic hitman - Maguire The Reporter, a hitman who makes extra money by selling photos of the people he has killed. Law has shown remarkable range, from the rich, cultured playboy in The Talented Mr. Ripley to a robot in Artificial Intelligence to this part (you can even throw in hero and leading man for Enemy at the Gates). Each character is completely different and memorable. I hope he gets recognized for his work, but it will be hard to top Newman and Hanks.
Road to Perdition is a guy's movie with an amazing story that women might be able to get into. I won't lie, if you like The Godfather, this film is for you. To me, Road to Perdition is one of the best films of the last few years and one that you should go to see if you love movies. Grade: A+
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