Sam Mendes’s Road to Perdition is a beautifully dignified and powerfully mounted mob drama that explores the ties of emotional bond between father and son. Set in the dark days of prohibition we embark on a journey of fathers, sons, sins and redemption. Hitman Michael Sullivan (Tom Hanks) works for Illinois mob boss John Rooney (Paul Newman) who sees Sullivan as not only a trusted acquaintance but as a surrogate son. Unlike his biological son Connor (Daniel Craig), a hopelessly reckless and unrespectable mob boss son with hints of corruption. Sullivan for years has kept the secret of his profession from his two sons in hope that when both boys become men they will not follow in their father’s footsteps in a legacy of crime. However when eldest son Michael Sullivan, Jr. (Tyler Hoechlin) discovers what his father does for a living, Michael’s years of loyalty are thrown away when father and son have to escape. Road to Perdition presents us a plot far more than keeping secrets and acts of revenge but rather a narrative of sin and violent heritance that a father tries to shield from his offspring.
“Sons are put on this earth to trouble their fathers,” is a quote that has a very deep meaning and dramatic significance for both Michael Sullivan and John Rooney. Considering the narrative of the film, this quote frames the theme of violence inherited from father to son. If we look at the title of the film it is a flamboyant metaphor for both Michael Sullivan and his son. Perdition is not only the destination of the town name but also a voyage that Michael Sullivan embarks on to save his son’s soul. Sullivan is not only protecting his son from the Irish mafia but also is in a battle of achieving redemption through his child by preventing his son from the same fate. With his father shielding his background he subconsciously blocks out his son emotional. When tragedy strikes the Sullivan family, both father and son hit the road and journey through the years of the Great Depression and the Prohibition. As the relationship between John Rooney and son Connor goes bad to worse the relationship between the Sullivan’s strengthens as they both realize they are very much alike.
The inheritance of violence from fathers to sons is explored by not only Michael Sullivan and John Rooney but also Michael, John and Connor. John treats Michael as his very own son constantly idolising him and even shares moments of fatherly affection. Sullivan who never had a father feels the same. Connor has none of the qualities of Sullivan and in fact is entirely opposite. Conflicted by jealousy this fuels the action of getting rid of his surrogate brother which evidently causes a domino effect that pushes the narrative of the film.