July 15, 2002 [Road to Perdition]

Tom Hanks' face in Road to Perdition is heavy and wary, like the movie itself--another one based on a graphic novel--but I'm not sure I'd like to see it: I'm happier imagining it looking like a brutal version of 1930s comic strips, simple lines rounded off to darkened edges.  As Michael Sullivan, Hanks' eyes are often not the same as his face, especially if he's smiling or listening--because he's first always watching.  He's jowly and his voice is level and quiet; he's a family man and the top soldier in Paul Newman's Irish Catholic mob, downstate in Illinois in 1931.

So when his boss' maybe-crazy son decides that everyone in Hanks' family, including Hanks, has to die, the soldier knows that, if things get worse--and that is saying much, after his wife and younger son are shot to death while the boy comes out of his bath--his surviving son should not seek the help of their priest, but go see the local minister.  His Church is good only for its steady stream of funeral services.

The movie manages to have a sense of humor, another road picture with a series of small victories along the way; and it lets us understand the truth that the living boy, also Michael, knows: His father may have been a good man or a man with no good in him--but he is his father.  Hanks should do more pictures like this, his chubby kid face mottled and drawn down with weights, his stubble fraying his white collar, a deliberate, slow set of gestures while his shoulders try to remain squared off as he tries one last time to make good on his good intentions.


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