Road to Perdition (2002)

Road to Perdition (2002)

A Story by Doug Ordunio

terrfic film where Tom Hanks plays a bad guy, of sorts


Director: Sam Mendes


Most films that have starred Tom Hanks have a light-hearted touch. However, in this film, we see him play a true bad guy. At the same time, he is a family man who loves his wife and sons. Certainly, that is a reason to see this beautiful piece of cinema. Perhaps the most striking feature is the cinematography which won the Oscar for the late Conrad L. Hall. The film is set over a period of six weeks in 1931. It was shot in Chicago, Pullman, and Geneva, Illinois. The overall look of the sets and costumes features muted grays and greens. There is little bright coloration, and the art of Edward Hopper was a strong influence. 


A few features of the film should be noted as key components of the story. First is the sense of darkness which surrounds much of the action. A good deal of it is shot at night. Many of the interiors and character’s faces are shown in partial shadow. Second, the use of water as a device. Since the story is set in the winter, snowy landscapes are seen. Rainfall not only in a visual sense but also as a sound is used. In the wake scene at the beginning, water is important as we hear the dripping of it. It’s a sound caused by the melting of ice that is packed around the corpse at the viewing. A third component is the relationships of fathers and sons. As the Rooney character notes, “Sons are here to trouble their fathers.” The relation that exists between Michael Jr. and his father is different from that between Michael Sr. and his son Peter. There is a difference between Michael’s relationship with John Rooney in contrast to that of Rooney and his own son, Connor, which is strained at best


Michael Sullivan (Tom Hanks) is a mob enforcer for John Rooney (Paul Newman), an Irish mob boss. When Michael Jr. (Tyler Hoechlin) becomes a little too curious about where his father goes to work late at night. After hiding in his father’s car, he inadvertently witnesses a killing committed by Connor Rooney (Daniel Craig). This was supposedly just a chat and was not supposed to result in a death. After discovering his son, Michael swears him to secrecy. Connor does not trust this and murders Mrs. Sullivan (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and Sullivan’s other son, thinking it is Michael.


Father and son go on the run and try to get rid of Connor by robbing banks of the money of Rooney and Capone, then trading the money for Connor. Sullivan becomes aware that Connor has been embezzling money that belongs to his father. He ultimately tells John of this, but the elder man feels helpless to stop Connor because he is his son. After Sullivan has done away with John and the rest of his men, he goes after Connor who is hiding out in a high-class Chicago hotel.


That done, Michael and his son go to a remote beachside house to live in peace. However, Maguire (Jude Law) who has been trailing Sullivan, finally is able to shoot him. Michael, Jr. is faced with a dilemma�"whether or not to shoot Maguire, thereby following in his father’s footsteps.  Michael Sr. shoots Maguire with his last strength, and Jr. in voice over says that after that day he never touched a gun again.


Music by Thomas Newman is wonderfully atmospheric, with touches of an Irish flavor to enhance the mood.

© 2011 Doug Ordunio

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Added on December 18, 2011
Last Updated on December 18, 2011


Doug Ordunio
Doug Ordunio

Tujunga, CA

I have been writing for a little while-- Please read and you might be entertained. Please don't send me tons of read requests. If you must send one, make sure it's your best stuff. From me, you will.. more..