Blu-ray
Must Own
4.5 stars
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Overall Grade
4.5 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
4.5 Stars
HD Video Quality
4.5 Stars
HD Audio Quality
5 Stars
Supplements
3.5 Stars
High-Def Extras
3.5 Stars
Bottom Line
Must Own

Road to Perdition

Street Date:
August 3rd, 2010
Reviewed by:
Review Date: 1
August 9th, 2010
Movie Release Year:
2002
Studio:
DreamWorks
Length:
117 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
Rated R
Release Country
United States

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

"It's natural law: sons are put on this Earth to trouble their fathers."

A mythic graphic novel transposed to the silver screen, 'Road to Perdition' was released in 2002 and, save for the thundering soundtrack, it still feels like it could have been a product of Hollywood's Technicolor-fueled golden age. This is what the Blu-ray format is all about. I'll get to the technical details in a moment, but first let's discuss the movie. In order to do so clearly, let me also present this reviewer's history with the film:

As a fan of 'American Beauty' and the legendary cinematographer Conrad Hall ('Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid', 'Cool Hand Luke'), I was practically frothing at the mouth when this film premiered back in '02. But a funny thing happened. I left the theatre feeling cold. I didn't love it and thus, haven't seen the movie in its entirety since. Again, thank goodness for Blu-ray. Sitting down for this film with a huge TV and a home theater format able to nearly replicate a real cinematic experience, I finally had the reaction I had hoped for some years ago. Perhaps my expectations are lower now, not gripped with overhyped enthusiasm, but I suspect it's also about having had a chance to live 30 percent more of my life. In growing up, in having a more complicated relationship with my own father, 'Road to Perdition' finally rings true.

Regardless of your own personal stories, of which there are infinite tales more interesting than mine, 'Road to Perdition' is part gripping thriller, part meditation on the mythic qualities of the father-son relationship. Tom Hanks play Michael Sullivan, a loving father and prohibition era mob enforcer for boss John Rooney (a grizzly Paul Newman). Since Sullivan was practically raised by Rooney, they are a symbolic father and son, a relationship that echoes Robert Duvall in 'The Godfather'. One night, Rooney sends his literal son Conner (James Bond himself, Daniel Craig) with Sullivan to talk some sense into a disgruntled employee, but Sullivan's son, Michael Jr., sneaks along and accidentally witnesses Conner gunning down the disgruntled employee. And thus begins a spiraling tale of tragedy, revenge, redemption, honor, and betrayal.

In my second viewing, this is a film that fires on all the proverbial cylinders. It's dramatic, funny, heart-warming, and terrifying. The stars give powerhouse performances, and the supporting cast is a veritable fleet of talent -- I suppose that's what you have at your disposal as a filmmaker when you make your follow up to a Best Picture. The cinematography is outstanding, featuring deep shadowed rainy nights and epic mid-western landscapes, feeling both natural and stylized at the same time; both period and modern. The music by Thomas Newman is perhaps my second favorite score of his (behind the similiarly themed work he did for Frank Darabount on 'The Shawshank Redemption'). It elevates the entire film, complementing emotions and enlarging the scale. Again, mythic is a fine adjective here.

Sorry to gush, sorry to toss my critical badge to the side of the road, but what the hell, sometimes you just connect with a film. 'Road to Perdition' blew me a way. I wouldn't say it's a perfect film, the second act can drag now and again, but over all, this is a gripping, thematic, thought provoking, grade-A B-movie. I can only hope I won't get too excited for 'Road to Purgatory', the graphic novel's sequel, which is currently being prepped for production.

The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats

'Road to Perdition' comes to Blu-ray on one dual-layer 50GB disc, and is Region A locked. Popping the disc into your player takes you immediately to a Main Menu, after a customary FBI Warning and Paramount logo (Paramount's the distributor here for DreamWorks, who co-financed the film with Fox).

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

'Road to Perdition' debuts on Blu-ray with an almost perfect 1080p/AVC-MPEG4 (aspect ratio 2.35:1) transfer. Okay, first the bad stuff, so I can get back to gushing. As one might expect, for an eight-year-old film, this negative appears ever so slightly dirty -– some dust, some teeny-tiny scratches. Further, on the opening Fox logo fanfare, there is some aliasing on the logo's diagonal lines. There is also some minor banding, mostly in grey or white areas. But we're talking serious nitpicking here, and thus the 4.5 rating.

When 'Road to Perdition' is working, it's a stunner, pure and simple. Kudos to Sam Mendes and his collaboration with Conrad Hall. This won Hall an Academy Award for cinematography, which was accepted posthumously by his son. This is a glorious use of the Blu-ray format, drenched in filmic grain; it's like having a 35mm projector in your house. This isn't a complaint, mind you, but rather this is filmmaker's intent. This is what Martin Scorsese spoke about at Blu-con 2.0. This digital home media disc feels like film. Detail and clarity seems endless, despite a very tight depth of field -- rainy night exteriors are amazing. Skin tones are natural to their environments. Colors range from vibrant and bold, to an almost monochromatic sepia or black & white. There really isn't a way to describe how good this film looks in words; just watch it.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

Perfect. Reference. That's all I wanted to write in this technical portion of the 'Road to Perdition' review. You're probably tired of my enthusiasm, but this English 5.1 DTS-MA soundtrack is a stunner. A top ten title of the year, maybe just maybe the format (definitely top twenty here). I don't actually have any complaints, which is weird, but let's get on with why this is so great. Thomas Newman's score is magical, among his best, permeating the environment, and emotionally propelling the audience through the world. In lossless surround sound, it's like being in a concert all. Dialogue is crisp, and always clear. The whole mix is even, and can be enjoyed quietly or loudly (I vote loud). It is dynamic in the subtle moments, environments softly enveloping us; it is dynamic when it roars, thundering machine guns, or pouring and pounding and dripping rain. Sound is both focused, and always surprising the audience with fidelity and clarity and dimensionality. This is fully immersive, and I loved every minute of it.

Paramount Home Entertainment provides also provides French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes, as well as English, English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

Paramount has done a nice job bringing 'Road to Perdition' to Blu-ray. Packed with extras, this may not be the most documented, or feature-laden release, it is far from a double dip. By including the commentary, featurette and deleted scenes from the original 2003 DVD, and adding new exclusive HD content, this is an example of a studio treating fans with respect. Enjoy.

  • Audio Commentary with /Director Sam Mendes. Mendes provides a must-listen, in depth commentary for fans. It's entertaining, engaging, and delves into every aspect of the film, from the graphic novel origins, the shooting process, to the film's score. Definitely better than most.
  • Deleted Scenes (SD, 22Mins). Eleven scenes with optional Commentary by Director Sam Mendes.
  • The Making of Road to Perdition (SD, 25Mins). The original, standard making-of featurette. It's mostly an EPK, sales tool, filled with people talking about how good everyone else is etc. It's fine, but certainly nothing like the recent 'Rambo' documentary.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

  • Introduction by Director Sam Mendes. (HD, 1min) Mendes gushes (see, I'm not alone) over how this movie looks on Blu-ray, thanks to the format itself and Academy Award winning cinematographer Conrad Hall.
  • A Cinematic Life: The Art & Influence of Conrad Hall (HD, 27 mins). A short retrospective documentary about the life and work of this cinematic artist.
  • The Library: A Further Exploration of the Word of Road to Perdition (HD). A very cool, interactive archive which allows fans to "read and experience more about the creative process, real world setting, and historical inspiration for the original graphic novel and feature adaptation." Check out sections on "Crime Scene Portraits," "Real World Organized Crime," "News Stories of the Day," and "Inspriation & Adaption."
  • Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2 ½ mins).

Final Thoughts

This is a must own. I've never said that before in a review, but it's the truth. The film may not be for everyone -- it is tremendously moody, violent, and tragic, but this release represents everything Blu-ray is about, and perhaps the most filmic experience to hit the format yet. The video is damn near perfect, and the audio is one of the finest I've thus played on my home theater system. So for fans and collectors, this is a must. 'Road to Perdition' has never looked this good at home. For casual viewers, this is a Blu-ray that will be on our top ten lists as the calendar year closes out. Don't want to take my word for it, no problem, at least give it a rent. It's worth one viewing to see if the material works for you; visually and sound-wise, you won't be disappointed. Now my warning is this, I just enjoyed the hell out of it; hopefully I haven't overhyped it for you.

Technical Specs

  • Blu-ray

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p/AVC-MPEG4

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 2.35:1

Audio Formats

  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround Sound
  • French Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
  • Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound

Subtitles/Captions

  • English, English SDH, French, Spanish

Supplements

  • Commentary by Director Sam Mendes
  • Deleted Scenes (with optional commentary by Director Sam Mendes)
  • The Making of Road to Perdition
  • Theatrical Trailer (in HD)

Exclusive HD Content

  • Sam Mendes Feature Introduction (in HD)
  • A Cinematic Life: The Art & Influence of Conrad Hall (in HD)
  • The Library: A Further Exploration of the World of Road to Perdition

All disc reviews at High-Def Digest are completed using the best consumer HD home theater products currently on the market. More about our gear.

Puzzled by the technical jargon in our reviews, or wondering how we assess and rate HD DVD and Blu-ray discs? Learn about our review methodology.

List Price
$29.99
Amazon
$15.86 (47%)
3rd Party
$10.94
Usually ships in 24 hours Buy Now»