Road to Perdition

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(2002) ★★★★★

Film4: Tuesday 28 July, 11.25pm

Tom Hanks’ 12-year-old son is dismayed to learn the true nature of his father’s work for avuncular family benefactor Paul Newman. Hiding in the shadows, the terrified boy sees his dad gun down rival mobsters. It’s 1931 in the American Midwest, and witnesses to murder must be dealt with, young boys or not. Hanks and the lad take to the road in an old jalopy, trying to stay one step ahead of fastidious hitman Jude Law. Extremely stylish, occasionally theatrical gangster epic from American Beauty Oscar winner Sam Mendes, distinguished by meticulous photography that gives the picture a classic burnished look. It was the last film photographed by the great cameraman Conrad Hall, deservedly winning him another Oscar to go with those he won for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and American Beauty. Hall was by all accounts quite emotional during filming. In tears one day while setting up a shot of Newman, Hall was asked if he was all right. “He was so beautiful,” said Hall, shaking his head. “He was so beautiful.” And Hall would be more aware of that than most – he shot three of Newman’s biggest hits of the 1960s: Harper, Cool Hand Luke and Butch Cassidy. The acting’s not shabby here, either. Casting Hanks as a grimly efficient killer is a coup almost as jolting as Henry Fonda’s blue-eyed baddie in Once Upon a Time in the West. And the ever-reliable Newman brings characteristic authority to his crucial role of the ruthless Mob boss. Newman’s petulant son, by the way, is Daniel Craig – further evidence that this versatile actor’s strength has always been a shifty ability to lose himself in character. He really was an odd choice for James Bond. Director Mendes, though, turned out be an inspired fit for Skyfall and, in all likelihood, Spectre.

Certificate: 15

Duration: 117min

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