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Tom Hanks stars in this gangster drama set in the American Midwest during the 1930s. Twelve-year-old Michael Sullivan Jr is curious about what his father (Hanks) does for a living, and one night decides to hide in his car as he goes off to work. It soon transpires that the elder Sullivan is a hitman for the mob, and when young Michael witnesses a killing carried out by the gangster boss' son Connor (Daniel Craig), it starts off a chain of events which will mark Michael's life forever. Co-starring Paul Newman and Jude Law and directed by Sam Mendes.
A movie with an impeccable pedigree, Road to Perdition is director Sam Mendes' impressive follow-up to American Beauty, and features remarkable contributions from veteran cinematographer Conrad Hall, composer Thomas Newman and a cast of thespian brilliance led by Tom Hanks, Paul Newman and Jude Law. Unfortunately, all their fine efforts have been lavished on an essentially predictable story, adapted from the graphic novel, which here unfolds in an overly leisurely fashion. The result is a movie that looks wonderful but feels a little too much like a contrived morality play.
Hanks plays Michael Sullivan, a family man but also a hit man in the employ of mob boss John Rooney (Newman). A surrogate father-figure to Sullivan, Rooney also has a wayward real son, Connor (Daniel Craig), whose duplicity leads to a deadly alienation between the Rooney family and Sullivan. Forced to go on the run with his own 12-year-old son, Michael junior (Tyler Hoechlin), Sullivan seeks both revenge and a way to prevent his boy from one day taking the same dark road as himself. Thus the Road to Perdition becomes both a literal and metaphorical journey for the protagonists.
It wouldn't matter that there's little tension or doubt about the outcome, except that Hanks' character is all too clearly a decent chap at heart, thus undermining from the outset any sense of a real "journey" towards redemption. It remains a delight to see all the principals acting at their peak and so capably directed, but ultimately Road to Perdition seems like a series of magnificently staged set-pieces that doesn't quite add up to the sum of its parts.
On the DVD: Road to Perdition is presented in an anamorphic version of its original theatrical 2.35:1 ratio with accompanying Dolby 5.1 or DTS sound options. Both picture and sound make the most of the impeccable photography and production design. Extras are a feature commentary from Mendes, a series of deleted scenes also with optional commentary, a standard HBO making of featurette, plus photos, text notes and a trailer for the CD soundtrack. --Mark Walker