When I see a film creeping up for its first Blu-ray release, the obvious knee-jerk reaction is “does this really deserve a Blu-ray release?” I’m of course talking about 80s comedy re-releases that don’t really make any sense. But occasionally there’s also the reaction of “Oh thank God, I can finally watch this movie again!” The problem with being one of two reviewers on a movie review site such as this is you don’t get to re-watch films very often. That means if you find something you really like, unless you’re going to review some re-release of it, chances are you won’t come around for a second pass except…well, once in a blue moon. So when I saw Paramount was releasing Road to Perdition on Blu-ray my immediate thought was “Oh thank God…I can finally watch that film again after all these years.”
Two-time Academy Award® winner Tom Hanks in “one of his best performances” (Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times) stars as Michael Sullivan, a father fighting to keep his only son from traveling the Road to Perdition. Directed by Oscar® winner Sam Mendes (American Beauty), this towering motion picture achievement has been acclaimed by audiences and critics alike. Also starring Academy Award® winner Paul Newman and Oscar® nominee Jude law, Road to Perdition weaves a mesmerizing tale of a father and son bound together by tragedy and betrayal. On an unforgettable journey of honor, vengeance and redemption, they confront overwhelming odds – and forge an indestructible bond. Hailed for the powerhouse performances of its stars and the stunning impact of its story, Road to Perdition is an electrifying experience that will stay with you for a lifetime.
Truth be told the film isn’t something you can watch on a regular basis. It is probably my favorite film to ever come out of Sam Mendes, but it is an emotionally draining ride that takes a lot to build up a desire to watch again. But it’d been a good four or five years since I’d last laid eyes on the film (despite buying it on DVD a year ago—like I said, no time to re-watch anything) and by now I was ready once again to take it on. I knew it was a film I wanted to settle in for since the myriad of films I watch tend to screw up memories of past ones and trying to get a decent lock on what I truly remembered from this film was difficult. Thankfully all the emotions that this film stirs up came flooding back and within quick succession I was reminded as to what made me enjoy this film so much the first time around.
At the center of the films stupendousness is Tom Hanks. I don’t know if there’s been a movie the past twenty years that this many has made that I haven’t enjoyed simply because he was in it and seeing him in this film is nothing short of an absolutely commanding presence. It’s true seeing him as what is essentially a bad-guy is a bit of a career change up from the usual nice guys he plays, but Hanks makes it work. Though he is superb at his job the character he plays clearly has issues with it at times and once his young son gets mixed up in things it’s painfully evident that he doesn’t want his son to follow in his footsteps. Of course it’s not just Hanks that drive this film as everyone involved is absolutely spectacular in it. The late and great Paul Newman drew your eyes toward him in every scene he occupied and Jude Law and (relative newcomer at the time) Daniel Craig played their roles brilliantly as well. I had a hard time believing that Craig would be the new James Bond after seeing this film because he played a villain so spectacularly well. My mind immediately went to the bath tub sequence in the film upon hearing about the Bond role—and, hell, my mind goes to that scene regardless whenever I think about anything remotely related to this film. It’s not only one of the strongest in the film but also one of the most visually stunning as cinematographer Conrad L. Hall (who also won an Oscar for his work on this film—sadly posthumously) showcased his talent in that scene as well as fifty others in the film that really just helped drive home the impact of the film in every way imaginable. The end sequence with the more upbeat visuals (some actual daylight) was a great little decoy to the much darker ending.
Overall with the film now encroaching upon a decade in age, it’s hard to imagine that those who wanted to see the film haven’t already but if you haven’t then I can really only tell you that it is a Must See. It’s one of my all-time favorites and while it’s not something I’ll revisit often, I can only hope I get time to watch it again before the next format release.
Sadly this new Blu-ray edition doesn’t boast much that is new. It does come with a new cover and in a standard Elite Eco Blu-ray case with the usual firmware upgrade notice insert and the grey wash disc art. The presentation of the disc itself is up to par with the Paramount norm, so there’s not a whole lot here to impress you by the packaging or anything—simple and to the point.
It’s a shame this wasn’t an entry in Paramount’s Sapphire Series as it is a (nearly) flawless presentation. The video alone, an AVC encoded effort, is absolutely spectacular looking. Again the cinematography is just spectacular to look at and the 1080p transfer is undoubtedly the cleanest this film will ever look. There are a few spots of oddities that mar the transfer, but they’re so brief and non-intrusive that it hardly feels worth mentioning. There truly isn’t a frame in the film I wasn’t enamored with and when paired with the films DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix it’s probably the best combo you’ll see on a rather low-profile release like this all year. The films audio mix is just as engaging as every other aspect of it and every bullet fired and crowd sequence resonates and fills the room with the proper amount of depth and oomph.
Extras are sadly pretty much copy and pasted over, although a few extras. First up is the new Introduction by Director Sam Mendes (1:18, 1080i) graces the disc. It’s not much of a bonus, but it’s still a nice addition to what would have been an otherwise replicated package of extras. In addition there is a A Cinematic Life: The Art & Influence of Conrad Hall (26:40, 1080i) piece that provides a nice look at Hall’s past works as well as his discussion on his award winning performance for this film.
Ported over from the previous release:
• Commentary: – Commentary by Director Sam Mendes
• The Library: A Further Exploration of the World of Road to Perdition
• Additional Scenes: – Deleted Scenes (with optional commentary by Director Sam Mendes)
• The Making of Road to Perdition
• Trailers: – Theatrical Trailer
Overall it’s kind of a repeat release but if you’re a fan of the film like I am then the nearly mint presentation and pair of new extras should be enough to push you towards a double dip. If you’ve never seen or don’t own the film already though then this is easily Highly Recommended.
Road to Perdition is now available on Blu-ray.