The Art of Film
Film Review #1
The Road to Redemption
The most appealing thing about Road to Perdition is its over-arching theme of redemption. Michael Sullivan (Tom Hanks), an Irish mafia heavy, wants more than anything to keep his son from following in his criminal footsteps. Even though father and son will eventually drive to a place called Perdition to lay low, the story’s title suggests that Michael has for many years been traveling the road to hell. He understands as much, and wants his son to avoid the same highway, a road with no off ramps.
Then there is John Rooney (Paul Newman in his last feature film role) who is the embodiment of Satan in the film, the pitiless head of an Irish crime family. If his actions weren’t clear enough, he includes the devil in a toast, and late in the film in a conference with Michael below a church tells his younger protégé, “there are only murderers in this room,” and “there is only one guarantee, none of us will see heaven.”
Early in the movie, at a wake in his home for Danny McGovern, a foot soldier he has had killed, Rooney ominously acts the charming father to the Sullivan boys, Michael and Peter, one his son will soon murder, and the other he will personally order a contact on. He playfully tosses dice with the boys in a kind of gangster pastoral, in reality gambling with their very lives. With a disarming charm, reminiscent of the Prince of Darkness, he establishes an early connection with the youngsters, so that later when they are older they’ll feel taken care of by the family. By the time they learn the truth about the business, they will be less horrified, and will be drawn into the web of sin just like their father. Rooney also functions as the surrogate parent to Michael Sr. (Hanks), but whereas it’s usual or a father to protect his child from sin and danger, Rooney has molded Michael into the ruthless enforcer for his evil organization.
The story heads in another direction when Rooney’s son Conner...
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