Road to Perdition (2002)

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Released 3-Mar-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Mob Main Menu Audio & Animation
Scene Selection Anim & Audio
Audio Commentary
Featurette-Making Of
Deleted Scenes-11 +/- commentary
Trailer-CD Soundtrack
Gallery-Photo
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Production Notes
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 112:07
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (68:37) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Sam Mendes
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Tom Hanks
Paul Newman
Jude Law
Tyler Hoechlin
Jennifer Jason Leigh
Stanley Tucci
Daniel Craig
Case PUSH-11
RPI $36.95 Music Thomas Newman


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Russian Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles Bulgarian
Croatian
Czech
Dutch
English
Estonian
Hebrew
Hungarian
Latvian
Lithuanian
Polish
Portuguese
Romanian
Russian
Turkish
Russian Titling
English Audio Commentary
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    "The greatest gangster film since The Godfather" proclaims the quote from British tabloid News Of The World emblazoned in a prominent position on the back of the slick. While the merits of that statement are a little debatable (I'm sure there are plenty of Goodfellas fans out there who would say otherwise, even assuming the Godfather sequels are included with the first in the quote), it certainly is an excellent entry in what has not been a popular genre of late. But what truly sets Road To Perdition in a class all on its own is the astounding visual style with which the film has been put together. There has never been a film made that is as striking, that contains so many shots that are simply spine-tingling to watch, that exhibits such exacting visual craftsmanship, as this one. It is almost as if with the Oscar-winning American Beauty director Sam Mendes and cinematographer Conrad L. Hall were simply in practise - indeed warming up - for Road To Perdition.

    The story of this film, a story that sadly takes a back seat to the visuals, revolves around three paternal relationships. There is the old Irish gangster John Rooney's (Paul Newman) relationship with his surrogate son Michael Sullivan (Tom Hanks), and with his son by blood Connor Rooney (Daniel Craig). Then there is the relationship between Sullivan and his son Michael (in the film, the elder is referred to as Sullivan, while the junior is Michael) played by newcomer Tyler Hoechlin. Michael has a distant relationship with his father, not really knowing even what it is he does for a living. After a challenge from his younger brother, Michael takes it upon himself to follow his father to work. It is in this instance that his life changes, as he sees his father and Connor slay three men in cold blood. Worse is to come when Connor discovers that Michael was a witness. The father and son must go on the road together to avoid the wrath of the men Sullivan used to work for, and to try to prevent the boy from becoming his father.

    Unfortunately for Road To Perdition it is this very heavy subject matter that at once helps and hinders the film. Without such themes, it would be a simple escapist adventure, but played to the level they are there is little room for humour in the film, making it draining to watch, and could be too much for some people despite the fact that little actual violence is shown. There is some humour thrown in at around the midway point as Sullivan begins to bond with his son, and the introduction of Jude Law's character - the hired killer Maguire - has a decidedly mischievous tone, despite its subject matter, but in general the film is very serious. This has a lasting effect, as by the end of this film the desire to sit down and watch something pure and cleansing is very strong - a need to bathe the conscience. As with any serious subject matter, this film can be very moving, and the performances help immensely here. The young Tyler Hoechlin does an excellent job in a role that pits him against some of the greats of acting, while Tom Hanks and Paul Newman are both up to their usual standards. Hanks in particular is brilliant with his use of facial expression in a film that is quite light-on for dialogue. His expression as he watches his son contemplate shooting a man is so utterly perfect that it is hard to believe that it is only a film.

    But while the acting is brilliant, what this film will be remembered for is its visual representation. Every viewing reveals more detail, and more scenes and shots that are simply amazing to watch. The comic-book heritage of this film (it is based on a graphic novel - a long comic book - of the same name) is abundantly evident, as shot after shot could be freeze framed, placed with quotes, then pasted into a book to create a comic. From this come some truly awe-inspiring sequences. The first is Michael's view of his father's work. The entire scene takes place at ground level - the point of view of Michael - as he looks through some cracks and between the legs of his father to the remainder of the scene. There are many more throughout the film, but the finest comes when Sullivan walks down a hotel corridor. It starts as a tracking shot above Hanks' head that gradually out-paces him to come down in front just as he takes his gun out and cocks it in the one motion. It then follows him around the corner, into a room, and then lingers to show the details of the room. All in one shot, no cuts. It just gets better with each viewing, especially as the gravity of the situation in which it occurs is such that on first viewing the impact of the imagery is lessened.

    It is not just visual style that is present in this film - it also makes very interesting use of sound design. The dynamic range of the soundtrack is incredible, and entirely on purpose. During the editing process, the decision was made that any violence in the movie would be adjusted to seem extremely loud compared to the rest of the soundtrack. In this way, when a gun fires, the sound level jumps several orders of magnitude. On other occasions sounds are used in this contrasting manner to put the audience on edge, where a typical sound is pulled out and made disproportionately loud simply to make the sound register as unusual at the subconscious level.

    Road To Perdition may not be quite up to the standards of The Godfather, but regardless, it is a very good film that superbly demonstrates that even if style over substance is not sufficient, style will help lift something that has at least some substance to an entirely new level. Do yourself a favour - watch this film, then after it has all sunk in watch it again, just to appreciate the visual style.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The transfer presented for Road To Perdition is very good, and generally a pleasure to behold.

    Presented at the original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1, this transfer is 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer is very sharp, containing all the fine detail that helps to bring the film to life. There are a few problems with very heavy grain, most noticeably during the opening shot from 1:29 to 2:01, but it clears up quickly. The rest of the film displays only the low grain levels that were intended to be seen (Sam Mendes states in his commentary that they wanted this to be a grainy film). The shadow detail is likewise excellent, and as almost the entire movie takes place with a pattern of shadows across the screen, that is vitally important. There is no low level noise at all.

    Colours are excellent, representing the filmmakers' intention by being slightly subdued for the most part. Even so, the sumptuous nature of the sets comes through in abundant detail with rich and deep browns, greys, and blacks. On the occasions where the red of blood is present it stands out starkly against these monochromatic backgrounds, making it all the more jarring.

    Aside from some pixelization at the start when the grain is heavy, there are no compression artefacts this transfer. Aliasing is present, and although always light, not infrequent. There are a few moiré effects at the start (at 1:27 and 2:06), but these are caused by the very high grain levels (in fact, it would appear by aliasing on the pixelization caused by the grain). There are a few film artefacts (such as at 19:19 and 100:28), which is a little disappointing for such a high profile and recent film, but they are at least very infrequent, and mostly small.

    The subtitles are very accurate, only missing the occasional small word, and never really affecting the tone of the dialogue. Additionally, the subtitles include a set for the director's commentary, in what is a very encouraging move by Fox. As a side note, the subtitles also include many languages that are not found in either Region 2 or 4 (this is a dual-coded disc), which seems a strange decision.

    This is an RSDL formatted disc with the layer change taking place at 68:37 during Chapter 15. It is very well placed, coming right at the end of a scene with no image movement and almost no sound. I, in fact, missed it the first time through.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    This is a magnificent audio transfer, despite slightly inconsistent use of the surround channels.

    There are three audio tracks present on this disc. These are the original English dialogue in Dolby Digital 5.1 (at 448 Kbps), a Russian dub in Dolby Digital 5.1 (at 384 Kbps), and an English audio commentary track in Dolby Digital 2.0 surround (at 192 Kbps). The choice of Russian is a strange one, as it is located in Region 5, while this disc is only coded Region 2 and 4.

    Dialogue is clear and easy to understand at all times - even when the actors descend into "gangster's mumble". The most impressive aspect of this soundtrack is its dynamic range. In order to highlight the impact and horror of violence, the acts of pure violence - of man at his worst - are extremely loud compared to the rest of the soundtrack. This track will really test your amplifier, delivering crisp and discernible dialogue, followed by sudden and violent noise. Audio sync is spot on throughout, and is never a problem.

    The score is credited to Thomas Newman and is an extremely effective creation. Mixing a more traditional movie score with a combination of Irish orchestrations, and percussive sounds, the score builds tension exactly where necessary, while driving home the emotional impact of scenes on more than one occasion.

    The surround channels are used somewhat inconsistently during this film, only really coming alive during the violent moments, with the soundtrack remaining largely frontal until they arrive. When they are being used, they are used well, carrying both score and effects noise to surround the viewer in the tragedy of violence. At other times they sit virtually silent.

    The subwoofer is well used, backing up the score and violent effects noises very well. The score especially delivers some very deep bass in places, using it to build tension.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    The selection of extras presented here is a little disappointing. They are a real mixed bag, with some at least worthwhile, while others are a total waste of time and effort to view.

Menu

    The menu is animated, 16x9 enhanced, themed around the movie, and features Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio.

Audio Commentary - Sam Mendes (Director)

    This is a good commentary, as Mendes reveals a large amount of information about the filmmaking process. He does occasionally fall into "narration" mode, but usually pulls out again quickly. There are few gaps, and he speaks in an engaging manner. This commentary is certainly worth a listen.

Making Of Road To Perdition (24:00)

    Presented at 1.33:1, not 16x9 enhanced, and featuring Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio, this making of is particularly uninteresting. It intermingles the typical back-slapping (he was the best director, the best actor, I was so awed by Paul Newman, etc) with what is essentially a summary of the film up until the half-way mark. There is absolutely nothing of interest here, and in fact a sad indictment of the lack of content of this featurette is that the text production notes also included on this disc are more interesting.

Deleted Scenes

    This section presents 11 deleted scenes as follows:     All scenes are presented at 2.35:1, are 16x9 enhanced, and are available with production audio, or audio commentary, both in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio.

CD Soundtrack (0:30)

    Presented at 1.33:1, not 16x9 enhanced, and featuring Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio, this is simply an ad for the soundtrack CD.

Photo Gallery (50)

    This is a collection of 50 stills, largely taken from the movie, but some are different angles on the action. They are well presented, but frankly, if I want to see fifty images from the movie, I'll just watch it.

Cast and Crew Biographies

    Actually, this section is rather incorrectly named, as it contains only cast biographies. They are quite extensive, nicely presented, and well written - and provide no information that a quick session on the web couldn't find.

Production Notes (24)

    This is a 24-page article on the making of the movie. While interesting, it really should have been incorporated as part of a featurette - this is after all a DVD and not a magazine.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    First a disclaimer: Road To Perdition is not released on DVD in Region 1 until the 25th of February, and as I result I was not able to track down any reviews for the title, so the following comparison is based on pre-release information, the accuracy of which cannot be verified.

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;

    The Region 1 DTS version of this disc misses out on;     The Region 1 Dolby Digital version of this disc misses out on;     I do not know if the DTS soundtrack is to be half, or full-bitrate, however as this disc already contains a very high quality Dolby Digital soundtrack, the improvement would not be immense, if at all. For that reason I will call this a draw for now.

Summary

    Road To Perdition is an excellent entry in the gangster genre, and a movie that re-defines visual style. Its stunning imagery will, ultimately, stay longer than the effect of the story itself, although that is still very solid.

    The video quality is very good. There is some heavy grain at the start, but apart from that, there is little to complain about.

    The audio quality is also very good, and although the lack of surround use is a little disappointing, it is more than made up for by the excellent use of dynamic range.

    The extras are not really up to the standard of the rest of the disc. None are particularly compelling, although the commentary is good, and provide little reason to get the disc other than the film itself (although that should be more than reason enough).

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Nick Jardine (My bio, it's short - read it anyway)
Saturday, February 08, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-555K, using Component output
DisplayLoewe Xelos 5381ZW. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS787, THX Select
SpeakersAll matching Vifa Drivers: centre 2x6.5" + 1" tweeter (d'appolito); fronts and rears 6.5" + 1" tweeter; centre rear 5" + 1" tweeter; sub 10" (150WRMS)

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DVD Plaza - Anthony C (read my bio)

Comments (Add)
Visual style - Johnny Wadd (i am bionic)
The UK Region 2 will have both DTS and DD5.1 - Bradavon REPLY POSTED
Re: UK r2 disc - DTS? - Anonymous
R1 DTS vs R1 DD vs R4 - Stimpy (da, what's a bio Ren?)