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George At 

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Road to Perdition

I don’t know much about graphic novels except for the fact they are hit and miss as source material for great filmmaking. For every “Sin City” or “V for Vendetta” there’s a “Watchmen”.

The only graphic novel adaption that would end up in my all-time Top 20 Films is the near perfect 2002 crime thriller, ROAD TO PERDITION.

Tom Hanks played a character that audiences hadn’t seen before, carrying more weight both physically and spiritually as depression era hit man Michael Sullivan. Hanks is quiet, imposing, the levelheaded balance to Connor Rooney, played by a young, pre-OO7 Daniel Craig.

Connor is explosive, hair-triggered in his temper and his humor and the son of the unquestioned organized crime leader, John Rooney, played by Paul Newman. John knows his son’s weaknesses and pairs him constantly with Michael to keep Connor in check.

At home, Michael is a quiet and authoritarian father to two young boys. The elder son Michael Jr is incredibly well played by a 12 year old Tyler Hoechlin. Curious about what his father really does, Michael Jr. hides in his father’s car when he and Connor go to meet another local crime boss who has offended John.

When Connor’s temper explodes and the meeting goes horribly wrong, their life begins to spin out of control. Loyalties and trust are tested and loved ones are lost in violent and tragic fashion.

Hanks is fantastic in the role, pulling you along as Michael’s priorities and loyalties shift under his feet. Daniel Craig is excellent as the almost maniacally twisted Connor, overdosing on his father’s power and legacy. Newman is superb. His scene in the cellar of the church with Hanks is textbook.

Jude Law rounds out a great cast as a hit man engaged to take out Michael. He’s as twisted as Connor, but manages to focus his evil into photographs of the dead and dying that he grabs at the most tortured moment and then hangs on his walls.

Like “The Godfather” the film is masterful in its skill in making you care about some very bad people and like that film, it perfectly captures the past through Oscar winning photography by the great Conrad Hall (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Cool Hand Luke) and excellent production design. Every scene is like a work of art.

Director Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Skyfall) serves up the story with a sure hand, keeping the story moving quickly and slowing down at all the right moments to capture the universal family moments that we can relate to in our own lives. Michael Jr’s relationship with his father is powerful and ever changing and serves as the core of this terrific movie.

This is a great and moving film. If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor and take the ROAD TO PERDITION. It’s a perfect crime drama that gets an A+.

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