Road to Perdition

From Academic Kids

Missing image
A poster for Road to Perdition

Road to Perdition is a 2002 motion picture directed by Sam Mendes and starring Tom Hanks, Tyler Hoechlin, Paul Newman, Jude Law, and Daniel Craig. The screenplay is based on a graphic novel of the same title by Max Allan Collins (who also wrote the novelization of the film with the same title).



The film's central themes include the bond between fathers and sons, loyalty, revenge, and the search for redemption. The title is a dual reference, firstly to a town called Perdition, and secondly to the threat of eternal damnation that in Catholic theology accompanies murder.


Michael Sullivan Sr. (Hanks) is a trusted aide to John Rooney (Newman), an Irish organized crime boss of Rock Island, Illinois. Rooney treats Sullivan as a surrogate son, being closer to him than his own son and heir, the vain yet insecure Connor Rooney (Craig).

Sullivan senior and Connor are instructed by Rooney to deal with a man who refuses to pay protection money to the mob. Unbeknownst to the both of them, a curious twelve-year-old Michael Sullivan Jr. hides in the car and witnesses the ensuing scene where Connor, acting against his father's wishes, murders the man. The shocked Sullivan Sr. swears his son to secrecy, while meanwhile John Rooney humiliates his son by demanding an apology for his seemingly hotheaded actions. Connor decides to snuff the Sullivan family out as a precaution. Ostensibly to prevent the threat of Sullivan Jr. talking (but in reality feeling jealous of and threatened by Sullivan), Connor, again against his father's wishes, attempts to have Sullivan murdered at the same time as personally killing his wife Annie and younger son Peter. Both Sullivan Sr. and his elder son, Michael Jr., survive the attempt on their lives and flee to Chicago.

When it becomes clear that the Al Capone organization will not countenance Sullivan's taking revenge on the Rooneys, he develops an elaborate scheme to protect his son and to blackmail the mob into giving up Connor. He must do this while evading Maguire (Law), a voyeuristic hit man hired by the Capone organization to complete the eradication of the Sullivans.

It later becomes apparent that Connor has been embezzling money from his father, holding the money under the names of gang members that he has murdered. Confronted by Sullivan with the evidence that his son has been betraying him, John Rooney refuses to stop protecting Connor.

In order to gain revenge, Sullivan must then kill the members of Rooney's gang, including John Rooney. He is then able to track down and avenge himself on Connor.

Subsequently, Maguire succeeds in tracking down the Sullivans and murders Michael Sullivan senior. His son has the opportunity to shoot Maguire but does not (Maguire is instead killed by the dying Sullivan Sr.), thus ensuring that Michael, at least, has a chance "to see Heaven".


The film was nominated for six Academy Awards, winning in the Best Cinematography category.


In the graphic novel, the principal characters' surnames are O'Sullivan and Looney.

In addition, in the book, O'Sullivan makes contact with Eliot Ness to supply incriminating information to ensure that The Untouchables would move against the Looney's.

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