Road to Perdition

Last night my sister and I went to see Tom Hanks’ new film, Road to Perdition.

I’ve never been a gangster film fan. There’s something about the era of Al Capone and Eliot Ness that bores me to distraction. Perhaps it’s because I really don’t understand that era of American history. Perhaps it’s because I simply don’t comprehend the politics around Prohibition, and by failing to understand that root cause of the 1920s gangster the whole period comes up short for me.

My sister adores Tom Hanks, absolutely adores him. How many Tom Hanks movies have we gone to see together? Too many to count, and when a new Tom Hanks movie comes out we block out the time to go on a joint venture to see it. Road to Perdition succeeded in every way, from acting to direction to art and sound design. I don’t know that I would go as far as some of the reviewers and say the film is Best Picture material, but for people who like films there’s a lot here to love.

I’ve read the original comic book on which Road to Perdition is based. My sister didn’t realize until we left the theatre that the film was anything but an original film. There’s a stark quality to the comic, the pages rendered in black and white, that conveys the grime and decay of the 1930s well. In some way I think the film loses that starkness, and the casting, though excellent, doesn’t entirely match the characters’ look in the comic. And a glaring failure of plot logic in the film makes perfect sense in the comic. My recommendation? If you like the film, search out the comic and spend an afternoon engrossed with it.

Best scene in the film? About twenty minutes out from the end, a gangland killing in a downpour. The sound design for this scene is absolutely remarkable, with the the sound of the rain drowning out the sound of the tommy guns. Other than the fall of rain, silence reigns. The world feels somehow green. A brief exchange of dialogue plays out between two characters, and in that moment you can see the depth of feeling between the two characters and how much the roads they have taken to reach that point have cost them personally and how much more the road forward will cost. The whole thing is staged so magnificently.

Excellent stuff. Check out Road to Perdition at the first opportunity.

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