Road to Perdition (2002)

There are very few movies that I would consider ‘perfect.’

Today’s movie for the DailyView comes pretty damn close.

In honor of Father’s Day, I chose Road to Perdition as the DailyView binge film and I am so glad that I did. This is a movie that I had seen small bits of when I was younger, but never watched all the way through. Directed by Sam Mendes, the film was based on a graphic novel of the same name written by Max Allen Collins.

In 1931, mob hitman Michael Sullivan (Tom Hanks) went out on a job with Connor Rooney (Daniel Craig), the son of mob kingpin John Rooney (Paul Newman). Unbeknownst to him, Michael’s son, Michael Jr (Tyler Hoechlin) had hidden in the car and was watching as Connor murdered a man.

Connor, not thinking that the boy could keep the secret, went to Sullivan’s house in an attempt to silence him. He ends up killing Sullivan’s wife (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and his younger son Peter (Liam Aiken), thinking he was Michael.

When Sullivan discovered this, he and Michael fled the area. However, Sullivan was not ready to let everything go and he set his sights on revenge against Connor. Meanwhile, in fear for his son, Rooney hired an assassin Maquire (Jude Law) to find Sullivan.

This film is a piece of art. The cinematography of the film, from Conrad L. Hall, received an Academy Award nomination. The imagery of Road to Perdition tells the story more than much of the scripted word does. The team between Hall and Mendes created a visual masterpiece of violence and the love of a father for his son.

It also blew my mind when I learned that the young actor playing Michael Jr. was Tyler Hoechlin, who would grow up to be our newest Superman in CW’s excellent TV series, Superman and Lois. Hoechlin had a difficult task, acting opposite such titans as Tom Hanks, Paul Newman and Jude Law, and the boy does a remarkable job. He plays the pain and the guilt of the situation beautifully and really tugs on the emotions of the viewers.

You won’t find a more complicated character than Michael Sullivan Sr and Tom Hanks gives a nuanced and compelling performance. It is no the role we are used to seeing Tom Hanks play, but he does it masterfully. Everything is underlaid by his love for his son and the pain of loss that he has suffered. You can feel the conflict that he feels as he does what he believes he has to do.

The theme of fathers and sons are all throughout this, making it a perfect film for Father’s Day. Road to Perdition has immediately become one of my favorite Tom Hanks movies, easily my favorite mob movie and a masterfully adapted graphic novel. Brilliant cinematography and exceptional performances make this an emotional ride and one of the best movies you are going to find.

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