I re-watched Road to Perdition on the plane to Bali. Adapted from a graphic novel of the same name by Max Allan Collins, it is one of my guilty pleasures, a stylized Depression-era noir centered around themes of revenge and redemption. More importantly it’s a powerful coming of ager, an examination of family as seen through an estranged father and son who grow to know each other, if only for a little while.
I came upon an amazing article on the inimitable Sam Mendes who directed the overlooked masterpiece and was captivated by his road to riches tale. “There is a grief that can never be solved and that’s what fuels you and confounds you in equal measure. It gives you a motor.”
Mendes has the midas touch, a revered stage and film director who has enjoyed monumental financial and critical acclaim in Hollywood and on Broadway over the last quarter century.
Inviting the interest of Tinseltown majors after the success of his stage revival of Cabaret! on Broadway, Mendes was offered a book bag of potential projects. Inside was Alan Ball’s screenplay for American Beauty, a hard-hitting suburban drama that he couldn’t put it down.
“I thought, Either I’m mad or this is one of the best scripts I’ve ever read,” Mendes went on to cast Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening in the title roles of the film that shattered the box office and collected five Oscars at the Academy Awards including a Best Director for Mendes.
Road to Perdition is my favourite film of his for the simple reason that it fucks me up every single time. When Connor Rooney (Daniel Craig), the spoiled son of a mob boss (Paul Newman) murders the wife and son of Michael Sullivan (Tom Hanks), a well-trained gun for hire, Sullivan and his remaining son (Tyler Hoechlin) strike out to avenge their fallen loved ones.
All you need to know about Mendes’ masterful storytelling can be found in the opening credits where we follow a pubescent kid riding through the morning snow on a bicycle, hawking newspapers to stone-faced factory workers.
With the help of a beautiful theme by Thomas Newman and masterful cinematography by Conrad Hall, Mendes sets the scene with pure immediacy. This is a world of great hardship and our guide is a young man with great tenacity and determination, a lone wolf with a fiercely independent spirit.
It can’t be overstated just how immersive Mendes’ films can be. No matter the genre or subject matter, he has the ability to put you in the drivers seat, to bring you along for the journey with a stomach full of butterflies.