Monday, November 25, 2019

Road to Perdition Is A Crime Thriller That Sticks With You

It’s amazing what a difference a hat can make. Like a pair of glasses, a person can look totally different whenever they’re wearing them. Take Tom Hanks in Road to Perdition for instance. When he’s wearing a low-tipped hat covering the upper part of his face in this movie, he totally looks older, weary and menacing. Those aren’t words one usually associates with Hanks, but they totally come to mind when his character, Michael Sullivan, dons a hat. Whenever he takes that hat off, though, a magical transformation occurs. Suddenly, Hanks is back to looking boyish and charming, like it hasn't been a day since Turner & Hooch. What a difference a hat can make.

For much of Road to Perdition, though, Hanks keeps that hat on. He's got to if he wants to be convincingly intimidating in the world of early 20th-century-gangsters that Michael Sullivan inhabits. Sullivan works as a mob enforcer for John Rooney (Paul Newman). That's a truth that Sullivan's young son, Michael Sullivan Jr. (Tyler Hoechlin), is kept in the dark about, he simply thinks his Father works for a local legend like Rooney. But then, one night, Sullivan Jr. sneaks out to see what kind of work his Father does and learns the horrible truth that his Dad is involved in killing people who dare to speak out against powerful John Rooney. Sullivan Jr.'s whole world is flipped around and then further disoriented once Rooney's son, Connor (Daniel Craig), sets out for violent vengeance against Sullivan.

Once the truth comes out and the now estranged father-and-son duo are forced to be on the lam together (Conroy and associates are targeting vengeance-craving Sullivan), Road to Perdition kicks into high gear as an excellent period piece crime thriller. Director Sam Mendes may have gotten his start as a feature film director with a small-scale dramedy about suburban angst but his true gifts as a director lie in his ability to create riveting tension. That’s been most prominently seen to date in his explosive work in the mega-budgeted blockbuster Skyfall but Road to Perdition sees Mendes excelling in that area in much smaller-scale confines.

A scene where Sullivan and Jude Law’s assassin character sit at a diner across from each other, each concealing their true identity from the other, is a classic example of this. It’s an entirely dialogue-based scene that creates so much suspense based on Mendes’ direction and the performances.  Of course, much of this suspense is aided by some top-notch cinematography courtesy of Conrad L. Hall. In his last work before his passing, Hall delivers truly remarkable work visually capturing the morally crushing world Frank Sullivan inhabits. The hometown where he works as a mob enforcer is coated in shadows, darkness runs rampant as a physical extension of the darkness he immersed himself in for his job.

When he and his son leave that location, though, a greater variety of colors begin to emerge, a way of signifying that there is a more hopeful world beyond the cold bleak one Frank Sullivan has worked in for so long. Conrad L. Hall does consistently excellent work creating visuals that can serve as extensions of all the characters, especially in Jude Law’s introductory shot that sees the world around him becoming as warped as his characters moral outlook. Thanks to that cinematography and quietly moving performances (Hanks can make you choke up so easily without saying a word), Road to Perdition is able to become a grim crime thriller you can’t help but become wrapped up in. It’s not just how transformative a single hat is for Tom Hanks that will stick in your mind once this Sam Mendes directorial effort is over

No comments:

Post a Comment