Classic Intel: Road To Perdition - TV Review

'Paul Newman claimed, a couple of years after its release, that this would be his last appearance on screen and that it was a fitting way to bow out. That's enough for me.'

Search for images relating to Sam Mendes' 2002 film Road To Perdition and note just how many of the results feature some sort of still from the above scene. Said scene, filmed almost entirely without dialogue or sound effects and instead set to one evocative piece of music, is important not just in the context of the film (indeed, it arguably signifies the film's emotional apex) but also in contemporary cinema. This, ladies and gentleman, presents a very good case for being one of the best scenes 21st Century cinema has thus far produced.

But look elsewhere throughout Road To Perdition and you'll find many more highlights. Michael Sullivan (Tom Hanks) sitting down to play piano with John Rooney (Paul Newman). Harlen Maguire's (Jude Law) introduction, off-kilter, stunningly photographed, purposefully out of sync with every other scene in the film. The almost-final shot, surprising, even to those who had been paying attention and, once again, near silent - just listen to how clearly you can hear the waves.

This is also a film of notable 'lasts'. It is both the last time - and arguably the first time - that Tom Hanks has come close to playing an unlikeable character. Sure, Rooney may be our protagonist but he is also a career criminal, a hit man for the mob, a father who takes his son on a murderous rampage, arguably culpable for contributing to Connor Rooney's (Daniel Craig) acts of violence that kick the plot off. It is also the last time we saw Paul Newman on-screen in a major film. I remember listening to Newman being interviewed at some point a few years after the release of Mendes' film. The interviewer asked whether this would be his last appearance and whether he thought it was a fitting way to bow out. Newman answered both questions in the affirmative. That's enough for me.

The film's sole Oscar win, for Conrad L. Hall's stunning cinematography, stands alongside several other rewards in the same category, recognising not just the success in this film but the many wonderful creations across Hall's career. It was, fittingly, the last film before his death in 2003. What the awards also nod to though is that Road To Perdition is a film whose worth has only become apparent in recent years. Mendes, a master story teller, can arguably claim to overseeing the last great period American gangster film, albeit one marginalised by more modern do-badders (The Departed) and a spate of foreign successes (Mesrine). It won't be the last time we visit the 1930s but, if, by some extreme form of genre purging, it proved to be, there would at least be a fantastic monument to the sub-genre, a fitting last entry. An under-rated classic.




Look further...

Wonders In The Dark consider Road To Perdition both on the page and on the screen.

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