Road To Perdition
is a comfortable, steady exercise in mediocrity. It takes no chances, has no surprises, challenges no expectations, and provokes no real, lasting thought. It's a glass cube of pretty pictures, but hiding a story that is fundamentally quite bad (Connor's motivations are absurd and contrived, Hanks's forgetful slip in professional judgment at the end is uncharacteristically stupid) -- or at least dull (nothing much really happens; maybe a one-act's worth). Jude Law, as in A.I.,
is in an entirely different (and much superior) film. He lights up with an organic electricity that no other actor seems to dare attempt. Tom Hanks is fine, but trying to hard to have the weight of the world on his shoulders. The kid really sucks. Paul Newman is good, and the real movie of the movie is inside his head -- his conflict between duty to his business and duty to his son is the most interesting drama, but it's cast aside here to make room for cute little scenes like Hanks teaching his son to drive. What makes the movie boring is not its slow pace, but rather its distancing job -- you never get into the characters, never sympathize with them, never really feel that they're alive beyond the framings. The overwhelming sense I get from Sam Mendes is fear. He's afraid to take risks, and cowers deep underneath the blankets of tried-and-true Hollywood sophistication. His fear of having a truly dark ending, his fear of getting his hands dirty (just compare how clean this film is to how ugly and jagged Gangster No. 1
is), and his fear of not getting Oscar nominations has driven him into irrelevance. He knows coverage and he knows how to hire a first-rate crew, but he really lacks artistic courage.