‘Road to Perdition’ – Film Review and Analysis

One of the most underrated movies of the 2000’s was Sam Mendes’s ‘Road to Perdition’, which was released to critical acclaim back in 2002 and did pretty well at the box office with around $200 million in ticket sales. While some people would be skeptical of watching ‘Road to Perdition’ at first because they think it’s your average crime / mafia movie that doesn’t have much to offer in terms of storyline and symbolism, they would be wrong when it comes to this film.

Sam Mendes, who directed two other great films ‘American Beauty’ and ‘Revolutionary Road’, does an excellent job here as this movie is beautifully shot and has a stellar cast. ‘Road to Perdition’ also benefited from the legendary cinematography work of the departed Conrad L. Hall for which he won a posthumous Oscar for ‘Best Cinematography’ for this film after he passed away in 2003. The scenery and settings for this movie help to create quite a unique atmosphere and the wide shots, long angles that are used help to make this film stand out as being above average. Beyond just the cinematography, the acting by the cast also stands out.

When you look back to see who was starring in the main roles for ‘Road to Perdition’, it is a very impressive list. Tom Hanks plays Michael Sullivan Sr., the lead role of the film and a conflicted Irish mafia man caught between his past and keeping his son sheltered from the consequences of his actions. Paul Newman, one of the greatest American actors of all-time plays the role of John Rooney, an Irish mafia boss, who is also conflicted between his paternal feelings of love for Michael Sr., and his wish to protect his own son, Connor, played by a young Daniel Craig, from his own destructive sins. Rounding out the list is Jude Law, who plays a gifted hit-man / grisly photographer known as Harlan McGuire, and Stanley Tucci, who plays a high-ranking member of the Italian mafia known as Frank Nitti. A young actor who steals most of his scenes is the young but talented Tyler Hoechlin who is Michael Sullivan Jr. in the film, a boy who is coming to terms with his father’s lifestyle and his ties to the mafia. A truly impressive cast of Academy Award winners and nominees, which makes this film even more of a lasting treasure.

‘Road to Perdition’ really brings the atmosphere and makes the setting feel real as it portrays life in Great Depression-era America by focusing on specifically both on the city of Chicago and its’ rural hinterlands, cornfields of greater Illinois. The movie really portrays well the last decade of America being discovered and settled, while undergoing deep economic difficulties, as the Irish and Italian mafias become a source of income and employment when none could be had.

Most movies don’t seem to want to portray the mafia as having been a well-oiled machine that acted like a legitimate business, but ‘Road to Perdition’ makes clear that there are ways to look at the criminal enterprises that achieved a lot of prominence during the Great Depression due to their ability to bootleg and their appeal to provide a good income to men without work.

Without spoiling too much of the plot, Michael Sullivan Jr. (Tom Hanks) is an enforcer and bodyguard for the Irish mafia in the Chicago area of Illinois who has a close relationship with his boss, John Rooney (Paul Newman), who is implied to have helped Michael Sr. a lot with a home, a steady income, and a purpose which is quite difficult to come by during the height of the Great Depression. Michael Sr. is a flawed man who has done murder and committed other crimes for his boss, Mr. Rooney, and knows that it may cost him his life. Despite his past transgressions, he wants to protect his family from his sins and wants to keep his boys from knowing about what he does for a living.

Connor Rooney (Daniel Craig) is shown to be jealous of the close relationship that his father, John, and Michael Sr. have and is resentful of him. Michael Sullivan Jr. (Tyler Hoechlin) is distant from Michael Sr., his father due to late working hours and distant lifestyle. As any boy would like to know about his father, Michael Jr. decides to find out the truth about who his father, Michael Sr. is, and what he does for Mr. Rooney. At this point, the plot really takes off in tragic and unexpected ways leaving the viewer engaged in the storyline and the eventual outcome. As mentioned before, the acting done by this legendary cast helps make the film what it is and what it still is today.

Beyond just being a typical mobster movie, ‘Road to Perdition’ has a number of poignant and thought-provoking themes that stay with you even after the end credits begin to roll. This film goes over the trials and tribulations that fathers and sons can have with each other even when they love and care for each other dearly. Michael Sr. and John Rooney are not related by blood by have a relationship similar to a father and son as Mr. Rooney was around for Michael and his family when they had nothing. He is heavily indebted to Mr. Rooney even if he knows what he is doing is wrong by committing violent acts for the mafia. Still, their bond appears to be unbreakable and they get along quite well with each other.

To the contrary, both of their relationships with their respective sons are shaky at best and hostile at worst. There is a considerable distance between Michael Sr. and Michael Jr. due to the fact that Michael Sr. makes his lifestyle and his work for Mr. Rooney a well-kept secret. Michael Sr. does not show much affection or love for his boy and it’s not made clear until the end of the film why that is. Michael Sr. obviously cares for his boy but likely doesn’t want his son to know about the horrible things he’s done to keep him, his brother, and his wife save from harm or want. Still though, Michael Jr. does not want to be kept away from his father and who he is.

He ends up pursuing the truth whether or not his father wants him to or not leading to quite a turn of events when the truth comes to light. Connor Rooney, John’s son is quite envious of the close relationship that Michael Sr. has with his father compared to him. However, this is for a number of reasons. Connor is very much unlike his father, John, and has a number of character and personality flaws that make him a liability to the family. Connor is shown to be impulsive, manipulative, untrustworthy, and greedy but the conflict comes to light when John Rooney must decide if he should stick by his son’s side or give him up due to his past misdeeds. As John Rooney says to Michael Sullivan Sr. during one of the movie’s best scenes, “Sons were put on this Earth to trouble their fathers.”

During one of the movie’s most touching scenes, Michael Sr. tells Michael Jr. about a town called an idyllic town called Perdition, Illinois, which has beautiful scenery along the beach of Lake Michigan, and where the Sullivan family has visited before when Michael Jr. was a little boy. Perdition is portrayed as a goal for the two Michaels to get to in order to start their lives anew and escape the sins of the past. It’s a way for Michael Sr. to get redemption after taking care of his ties to the mafia and by trying to make up for what he did wrong as both a father and a man. The word ‘Perdition’ as defined in other words is ‘hell’ or ‘complete and utter damnation’ in more religious terms. Michael Sr. may try to redeem his sins by going to church or by rectifying the wrongs he’s done by getting revenge on the men who wronged him in the past but he knows deep down that it may not be enough.

If he is on the ‘Road to Perdition’ or the road to hell, the film shows the audience that he wants to keep his son, Michael Jr., from going down that same path. He wants badly for his son to have a better life and a brighter future away from violence and death. Michael Sr. won’t let his downfall lead to that of his son’s as well. Even if Michael Sr. is a murderer and a sinner, he knows what’s still right from wrong and he is going to do his best to preserve the innocence and goodness of his son. As a father, he is flawed but he still loves his son dearly and wants the best for him still.

Certain moves fit a certain season of the year well and ‘Road to Perdition’ is no exception. The winter setting, the Chicago cold, and the mature themes help lead it to being an ideal film to be watched during the depths of winter in January and February. Without spoiling anything, the film is a real story with real characters who are flawed in their own ways but who each have their own complex motives that drive the plot forward. This film, most of all, touches the audience emotionally and will pull on your heartstrings.

‘Road to Perdition’ is very underrated film that remains one of my favorite movies to this day. I highly recommend ‘Road to Perdition’ to other movie buffs who are looking to watch a crime / mafia film that has a soul. In addition to having an all-star cast, a renowned director, and a legendary cinematographer at the helm, ‘Road to Perdition’s music score composed by Thomas Newman is excellent and fits perfectly into the many moods of the film and has some stirring moments that add to the film’s setting. If you’re snowed in this weekend from the blizzard, do yourself a favor and go watch ‘Road to Perdition.’

An Urban Transformation

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“The kids were cheering me on.”

I had the pleasure recently of visiting Comuna 13, a neighborhood in Medellin that has had a difficult history with gang violence and the illegal drug trade but which is showing signs of both progress and renewal. Due to the investments made by both the local and city government, Comuna 13 has become a hotbed for beautiful street art and graffiti murals, which has attracted many local artists to make a positive mark on this community. Many of these artists are from Medellin and grew up in the neighborhoods of Comuna 13. Rather than discuss the past of Comuna 13, I would rather talk about why this particular community is poised to have a brighter future.

Beyond just the new street art and the graffiti murals that you can find around Comuna 13 are the relatively new escalators that connect the San Javier metro station to the communities located in the hills surrounding this transportation hub. These escalators make it a lot easier for both students and workers to gain easier access to the rest of the Medellin metropolitan area and are an easy way to get from point A to point B. The escalators are free to use for all people including the tourists who come to visit this part of the city.

While the escalators are not so numerous, it is possible that more of them will be added to other parts of the city in the future if I were to haphazard a guess. Medellin can set an example to other urban cities on how to connect neighborhoods efficiently with the use of escalators, especially those with sloping hills and steep mountains within the city limits. For the elderly and children as well, these escalators can be quite useful in helping them get around the neighborhood without too much trouble.

If you don’t feel like taking the escalators, there are concrete staircases adjacent to the new escalators so you can choose which way you want to go up or go down. The escalators are weatherproof as well which is quite genius when you think about. On your way to the metro, the overhang, which is a bright, fluorescent orange color, will protect you fully from the elements such as rain, snow, hail, etc. It only takes about five to ten minutes to get from the top of the escalators to the bottom of the escalators so if you’re in a rush, you won’t have to go through too many escalators to get to your final destination.

The city government of Medellin and local police has done a great job in my opinion with regards to keeping this part of Comuna 13 safe and secure. I noticed during my visit that locals and volunteers are instrumental in helping to keep the area around the escalators clean and orderly. There are park benches and small parks nearby to encourage community get-togethers as well as the fact that there is a big slide where the local children can use to slide up and down to have some fun in the neighborhood. Being the kid at heart that I am, I partook in one of the slides because it is pretty enjoyable and you do go down at a pretty fast speed.

Beyond just the new escalators, the cool slides, and the park benches, there are also now a few library parks, which are free for members of the community to enjoy, explore, and learn. In addition to being places for education, the libraries are great meeting places for the community and can strengthen neighborhood ties. You can also hold cultural, recreational, and educational activities such as group English classes or a family birthday party. Books in these libraries are free to borrow and use.

Everyone can use them regardless of their age, educational level or social status. The mind is a terrible thing to waste and because of the twelve library parks in Comuna 13 and other parts of Medellin, city residents here have a real chance to learn new things and satisfy their curiosity. One particular volunteer group that I’m interested in learning about is called ‘Stairway to English’, which provides free English classes with native speakers to members of the Comuna 13 community.

My visit to Comuna 13 left quite an impact on me. I did go through an organized tour this time, which I do recommend to people visiting this webpage. It was really useful to learn about the history, background, and the progress being made for this part of Medellin. Medellin is quite a large city and it can be easy to get caught up in only staying within your own neighborhood and to not see other parts of the city. Personally, I do hope that other escalator projects in urban areas will become popular in Colombia and other parts of the world.

Human beings are increasingly becoming more urban with over 70% of the world’s population projected to be living in cities by mid-century. This puts the onus on local, city, and national governments to adapt to this reality and try to make life easier and better for the millions of people who call a city their home. Other cities should take note of the social progress being made in Comuna 13 and I can only hope that more and more residents of Medellin will be able to improve their lives in different ways because of urban projects like building library parks or constructing escalator routes.

If you’re in Medellin sometime and you’re curious to check out the positive urban transformation that is ongoing in Comuna 13 and other parts of the city, I would recommend using Comuna 13 Tours, which has a very knowledgeable, kind, and helpful staff members who are bilingual and want to share their city with foreigners out of the goodness in their heart. This is not an official endorsement and I don’t get paid or receive any benefits from mentioning this tour on my website.

I’m doing it because I really enjoyed the experience I had recently with them and I think other visitors who come to Medellin should do the same based off my positive experience using this tour group. Perhaps, most importantly of all, you’ll meet a few locals during your tour and you can see how hospitable, kind, and open they are in Comuna 13. My only advice is to be careful about your photo taking, and to be respectful of both the tour guide and the locals who are kind enough to take some time out of their day to share with you. I look forward to visiting Comuna 13 again someday and I hope to use that giant slide again too.

For more information: http://www.comuna13tours.com/

English Corner – Present Progressive Tense

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“If you’re not sure where the Present Progressive Tense fits into the timeline, I have a useful chart for you to study.”

As a student of the English language, once you’re able to understand and use the ‘Simple Present Tense’ with proficiency and are ready to move on to the next grammar step, it would be wise to start learning about the ‘Present Progressive Tense.’ This particular grammar tense can help you to describe a number of different topics and can be used in a variety of ways. By studying the examples listed in this blog post and knowing when to apply the present progressive tense, you’ll be able to advance and get better in your study of English grammar rules.

The ‘Present Tense’ is divided into two kinds: the ‘Simple’ present tense and the ‘Continuous’ or ‘Progressive’ present tense. In order to fully understand the present tense grammar form, it’s important to understand both the ‘simple’ and ‘progressive’ aspects to this concept. Please follow along and read through this blog post if you’re a student of English grammar and want to better understand the ‘Present Progressive Tense.’ We will start by looking at a couple of examples regarding how this grammar tense is supposed to be structured. I would recommend that you copy these particular examples so you have some idea on how to use the present progressive tense in a sentence.

Examples

  1. I am going to the store today.
  2. We are planning on coming to your wedding tonight.
  3. What are you doing for dinner later this evening?

For the actual structure of the Present Progressive tense, it’s a little bit different when compared to the Simple Present tense. It’s necessary to begin the sentence with the ‘subject’ word whether it is “I, You, We, They, He / She, etc.” and you can also use the question form as well with “What, When, Where, Why, etc.” at the beginning of a sentence. The auxiliary verb, which is supposed to be conjugated in the Simple Present tense would come next and is modified depending upon which ‘subject’ word is used at the beginning of the sentence.

The auxiliary verb “to be” is the most popular form when it comes to the present tense so it is meant to be used often when it comes to creating the sentence. When you conjugate “to be” in the simple present form, you’ll end up with “is, are, am, etc.” depending upon the subject word. The auxiliary verb is always followed by the main verb, which is supposed to be displayed in present participle form. When we mention the present participle form, it basically involves the verb such as “do” and adding an “ing” to the end of the verb.

For negative sentences, the form of the present progressive sentence is a little bit different compared to regular sentences. It’s necessary to put the word ‘not’ in between the auxiliary verb and the main verb in order for the sentence to make grammatical sense.

Examples

  1. I am not dancing at the ball tonight.
  2. You are not playing basketball tomorrow.

If you’re thinking about making a question sentence with the present progressive tense, there’s a clear step that you need to take in order to make it work. The ‘subject’ at the beginning of the sentence must be exchanged for the ‘auxiliary verb’ due to a necessary change in the structure of the sentence in order to make the question work.

Examples

  1. Am I doing the right thing?
  2. Are you playing the piano for the recital?

As you can see, the ‘am’ which is the auxiliary verb comes at the beginning of the sentence this time and the ‘I’ word comes after and becomes secondary in terms of its’ placement. The positive and negative forms of the present progressive tense are quite similar to each other with the only difference being that the ‘not’ is added into the structure of the sentence in order to create that difference but the actual structure of the present progressive tense does not change at all. When it comes to the question form however, there is a change in the actual structure of the present progressive tense with the fact that the ‘subject’ and the ‘auxiliary verb’ essentially change places in order to form the actual question.

Now that we know the structure of the present progressive tense in its’ main forms of usage, how do we know when to put this grammatical tense into action? Well, it’s quite simple actually. There are some fundamental principles that guide the use of the present progressive tense in formal sentences. The present progressive tense can describe actions that are happening in real time and are continuing into the near future.

These could be actions or occurrences that are happening right now and have not been finished yet. These are actions that are in progress and have not reached the completion stage yet. This is why we add the –ing to our verbs to indicate that the action is ongoing and hasn’t reached an end yet.

Examples

  1. The wheels are spinning.
  2. The tables are turning.
  3. The guns are firing.

In addition to those actions that are occurring right now, there are also actions that have no set time frame or completion date yet but are ongoing and will require some time to finish. This is the most popular use for the –ing form and there are a lot of examples that can be construed from it.

Examples

  1. John is taking Salsa lessons.
  2. Martha is learning how to cook.
  3. Bob is starting a new job.

Despite being known as the ‘present progressive’ tense, this grammatical tense can also be used to describe actions or habits that will be occurring in the near future. In order to make this work though, you must add a word to indicate that something will happen in the future. Some examples of these words include ‘tonight, tomorrow, next week, this weekend, two days from now, etc. Usually, you are describing something that has been planned out to occur in the future with a specific date or timeframe in mind. People are long-term planners and thus, we are able to talk about actions that we will take in the future having made the plans ahead of time.

Examples

  1. I am going to attend university next August.
  2. I am planning to go to Mexico this winter.
  3. We are thinking about having our honeymoon in Hawaii next month.

The plan has already been set in motion and that’s why you’re discussing what you’re going to be doing but at a future time and place. It’s vital to remember that the present progressive tense does not exist without adding -ing to any verb regardless of which verb it is. The present progressive tense may not be the most popular grammatical tense but it is extremely important to practice, create examples, and master it both in its’ written form and its’ spoken form. Before you can go on to the ‘past’ and ‘future’ grammatical tenses, I believe that it’s necessary to have a good handle on the present progressive tense first before moving on to something else. Keep my explanations and examples in mind and look out for another ‘English Corner’ coming to you all soon.

Comuna 13

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Camera: Canon PowerShot SX710 HS

LocationMedellin, Colombia

Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu

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Camera: Canon PowerShot SX710 HS

Location: Machu Picchu, Peru

Cusco

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Camera: Canon PowerShot SX710 HS

Location: Cusco, Peru

Lima

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Camera: Canon PowerShot SX710 HS

Location: Lima, Peru