Adapted from the graphic novel and based on a true story of the Sullivan family in the early thirties who are all tight knit with a rich old man named John Rooney whose known Mike Sullivan, the head of the Sullivan family since he was a child and raised him. Mike’s kids Peter and Michael (Tyler Hoechlin) soon become curious of Mike’s job. One night, young Michael follows his father on one of his “missions” and learns the gruesome secret of his job. In an attempt to protect his son from being hunted by a vicious assassin named McGuire, he sets out on the road with his son to search for salvation and dodge death.
Sam Mendes outdoes himself. He so beautifully sets every piece of setting and furniture to a degree in which it all has a sort of domino effect to where it creates this incredible canvas. At times I was breath taken by the beautiful cinematography which meshes so well with Mendes’ directing which he so skillfully conveys through this movie. Every shot is like a painting, so coordinated and place in incredible tones and colors; it all works so well with each other. Mendes can change the mood of the story without hesitation and very subtly changes the tones and texture inch by little inch that it’s never noticeable. At one point the movie will become very dark and bleak that it perfectly displays an intense moment in the story then Mendes changes the colors of the setting to soothing to display a serene moment.
In one scene, Mendes conveys the city of Chicago as a gold and silver palace with stunning skyscrapers and incredible cityscapes yet shows the random and impersonal nature of the city through many different scenes of young Michael in a crowd of city-goers. Newcomer Tyler Hoechlin is good as young Michael Sullivan. The entire story is told through his eyes as he witnesses his whole world crumble under his feet right under him. We get to watch and understand what his character is experiencing perfectly and he adamantly displays the mixed emotions we would expect form him with great ease. Probably his most powerful scenes are when he and Tom Hanks share the screen as Father and Son. The banter between the two is witty sparking a chuckle from me now and then. For a newcomer he’s rather impressive and actually manages to care about his character throughout the movie. We know he has a grudge against his father yet must rely on him, and we know he’s lonely and lost as a child in a big world.
Screen Legend Paul Newman gives this movie the weight it deserves and pulls a complete turn around from his usual roles. He’s excellent as the violent but often morally conflicted John Rooney who holds a tight grip over the people who he comes into contact with but tends to downplay it. We know he’s a threat to Mike Sullivan but we never get the chance to hate him. His role is perfect, especially showing some true finesse in the scene where he scolds his son after he scrutinizes a friend’s death. He and Hanks have priceless chemistry together especially when they’re arguing and butting heads as enemies. Jude Law does a complete 180 on his personality and flawlessly goes off-type portraying the slithery, rat-like character known as McGuire. He goes whole hog with his character and changes his look as well sporting a balding hairdo, long dirty nails little buck teeth, and pale wrinkled skin.
He’s a truly intimidating character in the movie because we know he’s capable of sadistic acts and crafty plans. Law manages to gives a truly sinister presence throughout the film and holds his own among the incredible cast. Hanks truly drive this film with his unbelievable performance as Mike Sullivan. Sullivan’s character is like a child, he knows Rooney is a crime lord and he knows the violence that ensues within his company, but chooses to turn his head away because he sees him as a father. Throughout the course of the film he looks very weathered and worn out and shows every emotion with great empathy. We instantly know what he’s thinking of, and we feel for him. It’s funny because even as a violent character he’s still a very likeable presence throughout the film. He’s probably the best aspect of the movie showing he’s a truly versatile and gifted actor. The entire movie’s themes and stories undertones are that of heaven and hell.
Mike seeks salvation for his son Michael and in turn, hopes to find salvation for himself. In scenes involving crime, the setting is often dark and grim symbolizing hell, and when Mike and his son are together, the scenery is often bright and illuminates symbolizing heaven. Jude Law as McGuire is supposed to symbolize the devil and Mike’s past catching up with him. Mike attempts to seek salvation but can’t because McGuire is attempting to retrieve him. Writer Mike Self skillfully brings the biblical undertones to life within the movie’s sophisticated story; in the age of watered down tales and stale characters, Mike Self brings to life an array of excellent and deep characters that support this story and Sam Mendes masterful directing. Despite a few reservations, this is a true work of art from Sam Mendes who shows that he is truly an artist to be held. Powerful performances from the cast all around, incredible direction, a top notch story, and beautiful cinematography make this a true masterpiece.
The DVD features some excellent extras including a load of deleted scenes including some which feature actor Anthony Lapaglia as Al Capone who was supposed to be featured in the movie and within the storyline but was ultimately cut. Also be sure to watch the great commentary by director Mendes, and a Making of documentary from HBO.