Road To Perdition
Film Length: 117 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (2.35:1)
Subtitles: English, French and Spanish
Pray for Michael Sullivan
It seems less than often these days that I sit
down to review a new DVD title and find myself
suddenly immersed in something very special. In
this case, I found Road To Perdition to be
one of those rare solidly good films that brings
together a superlative cast, good characters and
an interesting story.
The film is based on a Max Allan Collins graphic
novel (an expanded comic book) that takes place in
the year 1931 -- the time of the Great Depression
and Prohibition. It is the era of Al Capone, hit men
and sawed-off shotguns. Tom Hanks plays Michael
Sullivan, a devoted father to two sons, Peter (Liam
Aiken) and Michael Jr. (Tyler Hoechlin), and a
loving husband to Anne (Jennifer Jason Leigh).
Micheal has a deep dark secret that he keeps from
his sons; that he works as a hitman for the Irish
mob headed up by John Rooney (Paul Newman).
Mike's children are at the age where they want to
know where their father is disappearing to every
night of the week. From such curiosity, his eldest
son stows away under the back seat of their old
Model A. As fate would have it, the night he does
this is the night Mike and Connor (Daniel Craig) end
up dealing with a loud-mouthed brother of a dead man.
When young Micheal becomes witness to a terrible
act committed from Connor the kid's doom is sealed,
regardless of assurances otherwise. Being very
careful not to reveal too much of the shocking
storyline that follows, let me say that for the
rest of this film, Sullivan finds himself on the
run trying to save the life of his son and at the
same time looking for revenge on those who wronged
him while being pursued by an eccentric hit man,
played by Jude Law. On the way, Sullivan rediscover's
a love and respect for his son that he did not have
before. The bonding between father and son becomes
very moving and powerful.
Tom Hanks is superb as a quiet and reserved often
brooding cold-blooded mob killer. For once, this
is not a film that rests solely upon his shoulders.
Paul Newman, still playing supportive roles,shows he
still has what it takes to rise to the occasion as
a classy old mob boss who's winding his career. As
always, the presence of Jude Law is always welcome,
and I was kind of tickled to seeing him here as an
odd-ball photographer/hit man whose characteristics
somewhat reminded me of Charlie Chaplin's Little
This film reteams American Beauty director
Sam Mendes and Director of Photography Conrad L.
Hall. While I was a bit disappointed that Mendes
used too much atmosphere to stand in the way of his
storytelling, I couldn't help but lose myself in
Hall's visuals filled with light and shadows. The
cinematography is just gorgeous here -- immersing
the viewer so completely in it's rain-soaked world.
I don't think I have ever seen rain roll off the
brim of a hat as beautifully as I have seen in this
film. It's very sad that Conrad Hall recently
passed away in Santa Monica, CA this past January.
This DVD release dedicates the film in his memory.
How is the transfer?
DreamWorks sent out review copies very late, thus
I had the opportunity to read a lot of early comments
about the overall transfer quality, some of which
were downright complaints about the way the film
Honestly, I had a few initial issues with the way
this DVD looked. Images seemed to be very soft,
and sometimes a little drab. Though images were
nicely detailed with excellent black levels, nothing
about the imagery seemed to leap off of the screen.
Thing is, I suddenly realized that this is the way
the film was supposed to look. The gray tones
and the many sequences shot in semi-darkness give the
film a somber, retro quality that perfectly resembles
the period of the Great American Depression. It can
only best be described as modern movie that faithfully
resembles a 1940’s black-and-white picture done in
color. When you realize what the director and
cinematographer were after, the transfer suddenly
took on an entirely new meaning. Colors look very
natural and very well saturated here.
The 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack is not as aggressive
as I would have hoped. Still, the front channels do
a superb job of mixing dialogue with Thomas Newman's
unmemorable score that comes across with wonderful
dynamics. The rears only provide ambient support with
a few selected effect noises (mostly during shoot-out
scenes). This certainly wasn't one of those instances
where I found myself immersed in an enveloping surround
DreamWorks has released Road To Perdition in
no less than 3 separate editions. You have a Full-Frame
version that I recommend to no-one. Then there are
two separate Dolby Digital and DTS versions. The
DTS version includes a DD track, but lacks the HBO
featurette described below. Though I normally always
prefer DTS over DD, I really don't see how DTS could
expand upon a mix that isn't very aggressive in the
First up is a full-length commentary by director
Sam Mendes which is an enjoyable listening experience
thanks for the fact the director really gives us a
wealth of information on the overall production of this
film from some of the difficult edits he had to do,
to mixing the film's soundtrack, on down to working
with cinematographer Conrad L. Hall in getting the right
look for the picture. Mendes seemingly holds your
hand as he takes you through every scene giving you
the not only the finer points of what is happening,
but telling the story of the film through the eyes
of the characters themselves. You can really tell
that Mendes has a real passion for this film that
comes across strongly through this commentary.
There are eleven deleted scenes that are mostly
extensions of existing scenes. Many of these scenes
explore inner tensions between the characters and
their relationship to each other as well as the
community around them. There's even a cameo
appearance here by Anthony LaPaglia as Al Capone,
which is hard to look at after you have seen Robert
DeNiro's famous portrayal in The Untouchables.
The material presented here is in excellent condition
and is supplemented with optional commentary (with
subtitles) from director Sam Mendes.
(length: approx. 15 minutes)
HBO Making of Road To Perdition is the usual
run-of-the-mill fluff piece that only serves as a
promotion for the film but does manage to give us
a lot of background information in the process. It
takes us from Dean Zanuck's almost accidental
reading of the original graphic novel through
adapting the film for the screen. There are plenty
of interviews here with the entire cast and crew as
well as lots of behind-the-scenes footage. I
particularly enjoyed the fact that this featurette
touched upon Cinematographer Conrad L. Hall, not
only giving us an overview of his 40-year career
in film, but offering us an interview (perhaps his
last) in the process. To change topic, I don't mean
to be cruel here, but doesn't Producer Richard D.
Zanuck look and sound exactly like Gary Oldman in
(length: approx. 24 minutes)
Rounding out the extras are production notes
that tells how the film went from the hands of
Dean Zanuck to director Sam Mendes. There are also
separate cast and filmmaker filmographies as
well as an oddly presented photo gallery that
is ruined by the fact it is covered by overlays.
What is most noticeably missing here is the film's
original theatrical trailer which I remember to be
quite good. Why on earth DreamWorks decided to omit
this from the DVD release is just beyond me.
Road To Perdition is just a fine crafted,
gorgeous to look at old-time gangster tale with a
great story and superb cast. It's just short of
becoming a masterpiece.
I'm not entirely sure that DreamWorks took the best
"road" by releasing three separate editions of this
DVD other than the fact that they were probably
looking at saving consumers money over purchasing
a mega 2-disc set that had every version imaginable
I am placing this on my HIGHLY RECOMMENDED list
because it is a film that deserves your attention.
Release Date: NOW
All screen captures have been further compressed.
They are for illustrative purposes only and do not
represent actual picture quality