Hello again, and welcome to another post about movies! This week’s film: “The Road to Perdition” (2002), directed by Sam Mendes, starring Tom Hanks as Michael Sullivan, Irish mob boss Mr. Rooney’s number one enforcer. This movie averages 4 out of 5 stars in the ratings, and for good reason! I personally rate this movie 9 out of 10 for its dark, creative cinematography, epic scenes of intense drama, beautiful music composed by Thomas Newman, and its strong line of actors who are well known today such as Jude Law and Daniel Craig. This film easily climbs the ranks of one of my most enjoyed movies especially after watching the rainy street scene, which I will talk about later in this post! But for now, some discussion topics:
- What kind of camera movements and lighting schemes did you see and how were they effective in the movie?
Immediately at the start of the movie, we notice that the story is shot in dark, saturated colors. Everything has a cold, gloomy feel to it which played in perfectly with the snow during the opening sequence. It really sets the tone of the film. Furthermore, the use of shadows was amazing! It helps capture a sense of mystery and unconfirmed suspicion, for instance, during the beginning of the movie, we see Michael Sullivan put up his brief case, however, we only see the faint, almost-silhouette of the briefcase leaving us wondering what is in the case and what it is Michael Sullivan does for a living. Obviously, there are tons of interesting moments such as this which invoke suspense, drive mystery, and even capture symbolism, but to talk about them all would require a bigger website! But I digress.
I was able to recognize three kinds of camera movements throughout the film (or at least remember the name of them), two of which can be seen during the “Lexington Hotel Room 1432” scene (scene 22) where we see the camera zooming in on Michael Sullivan walking into the Lexington Hotel. From there a vertigo-shot is used to show him walking through the halls and corridors of the hotel. I get a sense of urgency through these shots, or a feeling that the scene is leading up to an event. Another scene that uses vertigo-shot is the scene where Maguire is shown walking towards the camera under what looks like a bridge or metro line although this particular scene gives a vibe of psychotic insanity. I also noticed the use of hand-held camera movement during scenes that portrayed anger and rage, particularly during two scenes which seem to mirror each other: John Rooney cursing his son, Connor Rooney, and Michael Sullivan scolding his son, Michael Jr. after their first encounter with Maguire at the diner. Both of these scenes seemed intense and powerful in emotion. The shaking effect is similar to that of clenched fists.
- Did you notice any symbolism in the film? What were they?
Our guest speaker brought up an interesting point during the discussion about the concept of good and evil being symbolized through light and darkness. It blew my mind, and once I saw it, I could not un-see it. This concept is seemingly confirmed during a scene where a heated discussion between John Rooney and Michael Sullivan is taking place: “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.” (John Rooney, RTP). It wasn’t until after I analyzed this quote that a battle between angels and demons became apparent to me. The mob always seems to be draped in darkness and shadows. Hardly any light at all. Even during scenes of death and killing were shot in the dark. A particular scene that exemplifies this is Maguire’s introduction scene where he is taking a picture of a man with a knife protruding from his chest. Unfortunately for the man, the knife alone was not enough to kill him and so he suffered a little before Maguire finished him off by suffocating him with a neckerchief. As he is doing this, though, a perfectly timed metro train passes by the window and the room is darkened for a brief moment as Maguire murders the man; an act of evil. On the flipside, there are also moments of justice which are captured in the light, for example, when Michael avenges his murdered wife and son at the Lexington hotel where he shoots Connor Rooney in the bathtub. On a side note, we also notice that the camera angle is looking down at Michael almost as if we are angels looking down on him. There is one, ultimate scene that is the mother of all symbolism in this entire film and is indeed the best scene of all. I have saved it for last:
- Explain the “Rainy street” scene.
This, by far, was the greatest scene of the whole movie. We have John Rooney walking out to his car, rain is pouring from the sky. He is being escorted by his protection, his men shadowy silhouettes. Before Mr. Rooney enters his car, we see his driver has been shot and killed. The shadow men are now scattered about the dark, wet street almost as if they are stranded, but surrounded by darkness. In the shadows we see nothing and wonder if Michael Sullivan is there ready to attack. For a moment there is silence. And then there is death for out of the shadows is the barrel flash of a weapon being fired. One by one, John’s men fall to the ground seemly dying as soon as they are met by the camera until there is only John left standing. The camera is slowly zooming in on John’s face for he knows he is going to die tonight. Out of the darkness and into the light comes Michael almost like a phantom. “I’m glad it’s you”, John says before Michael kills him. After the deed is done, Michael can see local residences looking down on him from there apartment windows as if they were angles looking down on a man who lost his place in heaven.