The son (Tyler Hoechlin) of a hitman (Tom Hanks) discovers what his father does for a living. 

4.5

After his amazingly accomplished and successful debut film American Beauty, you wonder what director Sam Mendes will come up with next. Well, the adaptation of Max Allan Collins and Richard Piers Rayner's graphic novel is the answer – Road to Perdition. Set in the heart of the Depression years, in 1931, when prohibition was in full swing and so were the gangsters that went with it, Sullivan (Tom Hanks) is a standover man for gang boss John Rooney (Paul Newman) in the town of Rock Island, not far from Chicago. He feels enormous loyalty to Rooney who has virtually adopted him and his family, much to the chagrin of Rooney's son Connor (Daniel Craig). When young Michael Sullivan, curious to see what his father actually does for Mr. Rooney, witnesses Connor killing a colleague and his father backing him up with further murders, he's appalled. But worse Connor's attempt to protect himself from Michael leads to the death of the boy's mother and brother. Sullivan and Michael are on the run, robbing banks to squeeze the mob, Sullivan bent on revenge and Michael clinging to the father he never really knew, both dogged by a creepy hitman Maguire (Jude Law).

This exquisitely crafted film, with dark brown and ochre hues from veteran cinematographer Conrad L. Hall, is about blood ties and tribal ties, about sibling rivalry and male bonding, it's about salvation. It's an absolutely splendid film experience. Veteran theatre director Sam Mendes has an innate sense of drama which he's able to apply to film perfectly, and his handling of the actors has elicited the most restrained performance from Tom Hanks and superb support from the rest of the cast – Paul Newman is just wonderful. Interestingly the film was edited by Australian Jill Bilcock fresh from her experiences with another wunderkind from the theatre, Baz Luhrmann.

Comments from David Stratton
: Sam Mendes' very accomplished follow-up to American Beauty is an epic family tragedy with almost Shakespearian dimensions. The screenplay is literate, the performances are excellent, Paul Newman especially chilling and the direction is consistently inventive and intelligent. Much more than just a tragic gangster film, this is a major Hollywood film of considerable depth.