Road to Perdition

Michael Sullivan: Tom Hanks
John Rooney: Paul Newman
Michael Sullivan Jr.: Tyler Hoechlin
Maguire: Jude Law
Connor Rooney: Daniel Craig
Frank Nitti: Stanley Tucci
Annie Sullivan: Jennifer Jason Leigh

Dreamworks Pictures and Twentieth Century Fox present a film directed by Sam Mendes. Written by David Self, based on the graphic novel by Max Allan Collins and Richard Piers Rayner. Running time: 119 minutes. Rated R (for violence and language).

Central Theme
Those who choose an evil life will bring ruin on their own life and the lives of those they love. The father of the good son will greatly rejoice; he who produces a wise son will be glad in him, but the parent of a fool gets trouble and has no joy at all.

It is 1931. Michael Sullivan is a loyal employee of mob leader John Rooney, a man who tightly controls his Rock Island region of the Chicago mob, but who has lost control of his own son Connor Rooney. The fatherless Sullivan, raised by Rooney, feels indebted to him and is emotionally closer to Rooney than the wayward Connor. This affection between Michael and John is not lost on the embittered Connor.

At home Sullivan enjoys a loving, supportive wife named Annie and two sons, Michael Jr. and Peter. After his brother Peter asks, “What does dad do for a job?” the precocious Michael Jr. decides to find out for himself. One night he hides in a car, goes along for the ride and witnesses his father and Connor, who have been sent to bring an unruly mobster back into the fold. What was to be “only talk” turns into a gangland massacre thanks to the volatility of the out-of-control Connor. The bloody slaying is a crime against society, drives another wedge between John Rooney and Connor and ushers in a new era for Sullivan and his 12-year-old son.

Having made it clear that there was to be no violence in this incident, an enraged John Rooney chastises Connor in the presence of other gangland leaders. In his humiliation, Connor takes matters into his own hands. He puts out word that John wants Michael killed and sets out to kill young Michael Jr. personally. He kills Annie Sullivan and Peter, but both Michael Jr. and his father survive and set out to gain revenge by seeking to kill Connor. Forced to choose between protecting his own son, Connor, or his adopted son Michael, John Rooney is unable to violate his own bloodline and chooses the bad seed Connor over the loyal and dependable Michael.

A hit is ordered against Michael, and father and son are on the run together. People ask, “Who was Michael Sullivan”, says son Michael Jr. “Some say he was a decent man. Some say there was no good in him at all. But I once spent six weeks with him and this is my story.” During their pilgrimage together, we observe this loyal son witness his fathers good and bad deeds, and we see a father whose only fear is that his son will follow in his violent footsteps. Unlike Rooney, Sullivan does not want his son in his business. Like Rooney, Sullivan has a son who wonders if his father loves another son more than him, ¢â‚¬Ëœdid you like Peter better than me?’

A cinematic marvel and classic exploration of father-son relationships concluding as the Biblical Proverbs teach, ¢â‚¬ËœThe father of the good son will greatly rejoice; he who produces a wise son will be glad in him, but the parent of a fool gets trouble and has no joy at all’ (Proverbs 23:24 and 17:21). The film is laced with religious scenes prayer at meals, prayer at a wake, prayer in a church, candles lit for the dead all juxtaposed on acts of brutality and violence. This seems to imply that one can separate real life from religious life, but also suggests that Sullivan’s involvement with the mob is truly a bargain with the devil which in truth violates his essential nature and desire to be a good person.

The word perdition means, ‘a complete and irreparable loss.’ In the film, Perdition is used as a name of the town to which Michael Sullivan takes his son for safety. As a movie title it aptly describes the ruinous outcome of a life spent in violence and betrayal. The morbidity of a life headed in the wrong direction and the inevitable outcome of such a life are brilliantly captured in the shadowy, rainy darkness of the film’s cinematic look.

Beliefs num
–You reap what you sow.
–Violence begets violence.
–The bond of father and son is strong.
–There is a way that seems right to man, but its end is destruction.
–The sins of one generation will have in impact on the next.

Questions Worth Discussing num
–If road to perdition means the road in life that leads to ‘utter ruin’-what kinds of people do you think are on that road today?
–What did Jesus mean when he said there are really only two roads in life-one that leads to life (and few choose it) and one that leads to death (and many are on that road)?
–Why would Rooney choose Connor over Michael?
–If Michael was essentially a good man, why would he do the kind of work he did?
–Can a person isolate the evil deeds of their daytime job from their family?
–Are sons put on earth to trouble their fathers?
–Can a father love his children equally?

Provocative Quotes byline
–Some say he was a decent man, some say there as no good in him at all, but I once spent six weeks with him and this is our story.
==Michael Jr. introduces the story.
–When we lose one of us it hurts us all. Danny made mistakes. We all make them. Let’s wake him to heaven and hope he makes it to heaven before the devil finds out he’s dead.
==Speech by Rooney at the wake for one of his employees who he likely allowed to be killed.
–He’s my son.
==Michael when asked if his son can keep secret the gangland slaying he witnessed.
–Your momma knows I love Mr. Rooney. We had nothing and he gave us a home and a life. I owe him.
==Michael when asked by his son if mom knows he’s a gangster.
–A man of honor always pays his debt and keeps his word.
==John Rooney to Michael Jr.
–It is a natural law. Sons are put on this earth to trouble their fathers.
==John Rooney reflecting to Michael about being a father of a son.
–I curse the day you were born.
==An enraged Rooney to his own son.
–This house is not our home anymore. It is an empty building.
==Sullivan to son as they leave the home where Annie and Peter have been murdered.
–God help me, what do I do? What do I do?
==Rooney in anguish at deciding whether to protect his son or Sullivan.
–Bible history. I like stories.
==Michael Jr. telling his dad about his favorite class in school.
–Did you like Peter better than me? You were different with me.
==Sullivan son asks father.
–Maybe it was because Peter was such a sweet boy. You were more like me and I didn’t want you to be.
==Sullivan responds to son.
–There are only murderers in this room, Michael. Open your eyes. This is the life we chose. The life we lead. And there is only one guarantee–none of us will see heaven.
==Rooney to Sullivan in a private conversation.
–I’m glad it was you.
==John Rooney faces Sullivan who is about to kill him.
–I’m sorry. I’m sorry.
==Sullivan father last words to son.
–I saw then that my father’s only fear was that his son would follow the same road. And that was the last time I ever held a gun.
==Sullivan Jr. comments on his fathers death.
–People ask me if Michael Sullivan was a decent man, or whether there was no good in him at all. I always give them the same answer. I just tell them–he was my father.
==Michael Jr, final lines.
–The message from Michael the father to Michael the son is that you get to choose the road you’re on in this life, but don’t choose what I have chosen.
==Tom Hanks about the movie.
–That is the core of the story: two men protecting their children. In the end, what can be more important than that?
==Sam Mendes, director.

Posted in Movies, Staublog in July 12, 2002 by | No Comments »

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