The other night while hanging out with my good friend, I decided to watch a film I’ve seen a couple times already. It’s a good one, with an even better cast in Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Jude Law and Daniel Craig.
The film, “Road to Perdition,” is a bittersweet tale of a young boy and his mob-enforcer father Michael Sullivan, played by Hanks, on the run in the early 1930’s as Sullivan’s former employer has put out a contract on him and his son, Michael Sullivan Jr.’s, lives.
Their life that’s shown in the film, however, isn’t always under these harsh circumstances.
When the film begins, we are introduced to Michael Sullivan Jr., the eldest son of Michael Sullivan. The younger Sullivan is selling newspapers to factory workers and riding his bicycle through the cold winter snow of Illinois.
From the jump, 2002’s “Road to Perdition,” captures an era of living that feels so foreign in today’s world. Jobs were scarce in the 1930’s as the Great Depression raged on, and throughout the film the background and environment are filled with reminders of the era and the struggles unique to it.
The Sullivans, while not related to Paul Newman’s John Rooney, are looked at as extended family of Rooney, as he treats Hanks’s Sullivan as his adopted and favorite son.
Problems arise however when Sullivan’s son stows away in his father’s car and watches from afar as his father conducts business with John Rooney’s son, played by Daniel Craig.
Things go south as Connor Rooney starts a gunfight and the men meeting with him and Sullivan end up dead. All the while Michael Jr. sees the whole bloody mess unfold.
Worse yet, Connor notices someone watching in the distance. Quickly reacting, Sullivan and Rooney chase down who ends up being Michael Jr. as the traumatized boy is told to keep quiet and tell no one.
Not satisfied with this, Connor takes things into his own hands. Disobeying his father’s desire to move on, Connor kills Sullivan’s wife and their youngest son Peter, mistaking him for Michael Jr. and thinking he has solved their witness problem.
From there, Sullivan and his son Michael Jr. embark on a road trip through Illinois, as they try to evade the reach of mob and rob banks of money belonging to the Chicago mafia and Al Capone.
While it sounds like action and heists would be the focus of the film, they aren’t.
Throughout the movie, we are given an intimate view into the complicated relationship between a father and son as they try to survive and forge a better relationship while running from a mafia hitman and coping with the pain of loss and complexity of the world around them.
“Road to Perdition,” is a movie that could fall into so many singular categories if done incorrectly, but through a masterful presentation of the story by the film’s director Sam Mendes, “Road to Perdition,” manages to avoid being pigeonholed into any specific genre or category.
Sure, the circumstances Sullivan and his son are in are dire, but the film doesn’t treat their journey like that. Watching Sullivan and his son melts everything else away and leaves the audience with several tender moments between father and son, in scenes that tug at your heart and make you hope everything will be alright.
While more people are familiar with Mendes’s other works like “1917,” “American Beauty” and “Skyfall,” “Road to Perdition” is a movie that sticks with you just as much as those other memorable works.
For your next movie night, give “Road to Perdition” a watch.
Grant Mitchell is a senior majoring in public relations. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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