Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Road to Perdition

So-so. Sam Mendes is a good storyteller – the picture is beautifully framed, shot, realized. A little too beautiful. Mendes falls in love a bit with his own images – every shot is a little too artful, a little too studied and scored. As a result, all the humanity leaches out of the film.

It’s a gangster tale set in the Depression, with Tom Hanks as a hitman beyond redemption trying to save his kid after the child accidentally witnesses a killing. Hanks is a fine actor, but his instincts are light, comedic –they’re about connecting with others. The result is a good actor who has to smother all his natural impulses to play someone dead inside.

All the humanity in that movie comes from Paul Newman in his last role, as an elderly crimelord sick to death of the killing. Newman only has a few scenes, but he dominates. He is the only one who injects some sense of real human feeling, while the pretty pictures plod along.

The ending is an eye-roller. They try to tack two or three shockers onto it, and it just becomes a little silly. I started mouthing the lines before they came. Jude Law is fine as a creepy, murderer/photographer with bad teeth but the character is too one-dimensional to make much impression.

If you’re watching Paul Newman –in his final screen role – get killed, and all you can think is ‘wow, beautiful shot’ –there’s a problem.


Zack Calhoon said...

Daniel Craig is pretty awesome in it as well.

David Johnston said...

He is - I actually think he would have been better in Hanks' part.