August 17, 2010

Directed by Sam Mendes all the way back in 2003, Road to Perdition has kinda been forgotten in the years since its release, though there seems no clear reason why: Tom Hanks puts in a fine performance, Mendes’ direction is glorious, Paul Newman shows up in his last major role, and Jude Law submits a genuinely creepy turn as a hitman with a penchant for even creepier photography.  If you’re a fan of the film, you’ve probably already got a copy on DVD, so is the recently-released Blu-ray worth that double dip?  Find out after the jump:

Just in case you’ve been in a coma for the past ten years, Road to Perdition tells the story of Michael Sullivan (Tom Hanks), an enforcer for the Irish mob who gets a little too bullet-y with the son (Daniel Craig, who I’d forgotten was in this) of his gangster boss (Paul Newman).  Sullivan’s forced to go on the run from the mob and one wacky hitman (Jude Law) with his son, and the vast majority of the film deals with their attempts to stay one step ahead of the crew that’s on their tail.  It’s way above average, and just about everyone in the cast turns in just-below-career-high performances.  Also, Sam Mendes directs, so it’s got that going for it.

When deciding whether or not to pick up Road to Perdition on Blu-ray, your choice oughtta be quick and easy, folks: by now, you’ve had plenty of time to discover the film on your own.  You know whether or not you dig this particular Sam Mendes film, and that probably means you already own a copy on DVD.  This means there are only two reasons that you’d pick up the Blu-ray version: image quality and extras.  So, let’s see what the disc has to offer.

In terms of image quality, you can rest assured that Road has never looked better.  The night-scenes are particularly awesome, and I don’t recall ever being as bowled over by the lighting as I was on this go-round.  Blu-ray fanatics already know that their preferred format can make a good movie great, or turn a great movie into something incredible, and that’s pretty much what happens here.  Sam Mendes directed the film, but Conrad Hall– one of the best DP’s in the business– shot it (he gets his own bonus feature on the disc that’s certainly worth watching), and the results are amazing.  In other words, Road to Perdition doesn’t just look predictably good on Blu-ray, it looks even better than I was expecting.

Meanwhile, in the extras department, there are a handful of useless features packaged in with the solid ones.  To start, we’ve got an HD intro starring Sam Mendes.  To this I say, “Meh; I’m not into these intros, listed in the “Bonus Features” on the back of the case like they’re actually something you’re going to revisit”.  It’s a nice touch, but it adds no value to a disc for me; you might be different, so plan accordingly.  Having the trailer in HD’s a nice touch, too, but again: “Meh”.

The commentary by Mendes is solid, and definitely worth a listen if you’re into commentaries.  I’ll make buying decisions based entirely upon whether or not a film has a commentary, and this one does.  Mendes doesn’t sleepwalk through the commentary (which is the worst: buying a disc for the commentary and discovering after the fact that whoever recorded it didn’t really give a shit.  Example: Being annoyed that Zach Galifianakis– who I love– appeared to be asleep for a good chunk of the “Hangover” commentary), but I’m unsure whether or not this commentary was on the DVD version.  Let’s assume it was, so again, factor that into your purchase decision.

The featurette on Conrad Hall is a nice little showcase for that DP, and if you’re not familiar with his work, it’s worth watching to learn yourself a thing or two.  There’s also a batch of deleted scenes (all of which they were right to leave on the cutting room floor; nothing outstanding here) and a making-of (“Meh”, more-or-less filler), but the best of the bunch is the featurette titled: “The Library: A Further Exploration of The World of Road to Perdition“.  If you were unaware that the film was based on a graphic novel (think History of Violence), then this one’s going to be of interest to you.

The bonus features that work, work adequately.  I can’t tell you that any of them are worth double-dipping for, though, especially when I suspect that many– if not all– were included on the DVD version (which I owned at one point and has, of course, gone missing at the precise point when I need it for reference).  My final verdict, however, comes down to the image quality: the film looks so deep and rich– so much more impressive than it already did– that it’d be a shame for fans of the film not to have this version.  Besides, even if you are a fan, when’s the last time you stuck this one in your DVD player?

As such, my recommendation is as follows: if you’re a fan of Road to Perdition and you have a Blu-ray player, pick up this version– even if you own the DVD.  You’ll be knocked out by the imagery here, trust me.  But don’t expect to spend any amount of time revisiting the bonus features: they’re– at best– worth watching all the way through once.  As long as you’re comfortable forking over the cash for image quality only, Road to Perdition‘s worthy of the notorious double-dip.  Also, it’s just a really fucking good movie.

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