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ROAD TO PERDITION
Reviewed March 1st, 2003 by Dan Jones

 

ďMay you get to Heaven an hour before the Devil knows you're dead.Ē

Road to Perdition is definitely one of my favorite films of 2002. The film is not your typical mobster/gangster movie; this is not the Godfather, not Goodfellas. In fact, Road to Perdition is not like any mob movie I have experienced before and perhaps that is why so many people are turned off to the film. Directed by Sam Mendes of American Beauty fame, Road to Perdition is an adaptation of a graphic novel by Max Allan Collins and Richard Piers Rayner. Thus, the script does not rely greatly on character dialogue, rather on presentation and imagery.

Tom Hanks, a hit man by trade, is not displayed in typical mobster fashion; rather we see his life and his existence not through the eyes of the men he has killed, but mainly through the eyes of his son, Michael Sullivan Jr. After Michael Jr. realizes what his father does by sneaking a ride during one of his fatherís hits, he is soon exposed, the hit goes wrong and eventually Michael and his son are on the run. Chasing them down this road is Maguire (played by Jude Law), a hired hit man set out to kill Michael.

The greatest part of Road to Perdition is the overall mood and cinematography of the film, the latter of which is nothing short of breathtaking. The setting is perfectly presented, the overall tone is usually grim and dark, always a reminder of the dark underside of the characters involved.

Overall, Road to Perdition is a good film with impeccable acting and truly amazing cinematography. Some might find the film to be boring as dialogue use can be sparse at time, relying on the viewer to focus on the images presented and not just what the characters are saying. But, if one can adapt to the style the film will not disappoint. Some also say the film was miscasted in that Tom Hanks cannot really handle the role of a cold-blooded killer looking for redemption. And, while itís somewhat hard to disagree with this, in that Hanks never really grasps the cold-blooded nature of a hit man, he does put in just about as good a performance as he can in my opinion considering the way people are bound to perceive him for just being Tom Hanks.

On to the DVD. To start, you will notice there are three different versions available. There are two widescreen versions, one with DTS, and there is a full-screen version. Why there is a full-screen version, I do not know.

Presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen Road to Perdition looks absolutely stunning. The transfer is excellent with rich and highly detailed blacks and darks (which is great as most of the film is presented in a dark fashion), great contrast, very low grain (especially considering it was shot on Super 35) and no transfer problems like compression artifacts or edge enhancement. On top of that, the source used seems to be in perfect condition. Excellent job.

As has been said Road to Perdition has been broken up into Dolby Digital and DTS releases. There is little to be said in differences between the two; if I had to choose I would go with the DTS release for slightly improved dynamic range and what seemed like tighter bass response; both will satisfy. Overall ambience is presented very nicely and the occasionally gun shots ring very clear. Imaging is quite good, especially up front with the surrounds going a bit underused in my opinion. Nevertheless, these are good tracks that do a nice job of representing the tone of the film.

Also included is a 5.1 French track and an English 2.0 track.

Starting the extras, we have a very good commentary from the filmís director, Sam Mendes. Mendes covers just about every aspect of the film, from adapting the novel, to the various settings to the casting process. It is all here, and that is what we like to see.

Next, we have a nice selection of deleted scenes, 11 in total running 15 minutes. The majority of these scenes are similar to scenes already in the film, but altered for pacing reasons. Worth a watch but none that really stand out as scenes that should have been in the final cut (the Al Capone scene is interesting).

Depending on which version you get, you may have the HBO First Look Special. Both non-DTS versions have this, but donít feel too bad if you donít as itís really nothing that special. For the most part this is pretty promo-oriented, showing many clips from the film with the occasional interview.

Finishing it up we have production notes, a gallery and some filmographies.

Overall Road to Perdition is a very good film that people should really check out. Itís not the typical mobster movie, but it has its own charm just the same. The cinematography is brilliant and the acting is very solid. If I had to choose between which release to go with I might just give the nod to the DTS release, if for nothing more then slightly improved sound. Sure you miss the HBO piece, but itís not much of a loss anyway. With great video and audio as well as a nice commentary, Road to Perdition is very easy to recommend - not to mention it's one of the best films of 2002.

 

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