This couldn't have been better. The strong restraints on Mike Sullivan's expressions couldn't have been portrayed in any other way. Tom Hanks delivers the best performance of his career. Young Tyler Hoechlin drives an emotional wheel; playing the basis character for the story. And veteran Paul Newman gives one of his best character performances in a long time.
This film is based on a bold graphic novel by Max Allan Collins and Richard Piers Rayner. This is a father/son story which basically employs the two candidates solely unfit for the roles. Mike Sullivan had no father as a child, so John Rooney took him in. Although a generous man, Mr. Rooney involved himself in organized crime. Therefore, the debt of Sullivan was only to be paid off in involving himself in the business. Now, Sullivan has a wife and two children and is trying to keep his children safe, but at the same time pay back his boss. The events to follow, will test Sullivan's loyalty and embrace his family's fate.
With a great adaptation by David Self, the dialogue comes out seldomly, but yet very virtuous. The story unfolds in a beautiful 1930's setting (Brilliant Art Direction by Richard L. Johnson & Nancy Haigh) covered with a dark rainy (snow on the ground) exterior. Driving the story, is Thomas Newman's wonderful Irish score, settling in only when necessary.
But the most important technical element in the film is Conrad L. Hall's beautiful photography. This is some of the best cinematography I've seen; and I watch a lot of films. The scene when Mike and Michael are in the car, entering Chicago is quite impressive. The shot starts at the front of the car, revealing Mike(Hanks) through the windshield. It subsequently dollys around to the side of the car, to see Michael(Hoechlin) awakening and peering out his side window. As it continues, it trucks sideways and dollys back, completely around the car and reveals a gorgeous scenic 1930's Chicago.
With a great cast and crew, the principle man creates a brazenly amazing film. I'm talking about Sam Mendes, who made his feature film debut in 1999 with American Beauty. (won him various awards) Before American Beauty, Mendes worked as a play director for the British Theater, but decided that he wanted to move on saying that there was nothing new for him in theater. With only two films, Sam Mendes has marked himself in my book as one of the great directors (In a list of about twenty-five).
The film illuminates a brazen genre that has its hits and misses and expresses the true theme brilliantly. The photography, acting and story is phenominal. I'm still waiting for Scorcesee's Gangs of New York, but for now, I'm fully confident in saying that this is the "Best Film of the Year". Considering it's competition (Signs, Insomnia, Minority Report) thats a strong statement.