Review Summary: When the music outshines the film.
Eyes were very much focused on director Sam Mendes after he gave us the 1999 hit, American Beauty
, a film that brought very strong opinions in just about every direction. In spite of some maligned thoughts, the film went on to win Best Picture and four other Academy Awards. It's rather curious then that Mendes brought us a gang/mafia-esque second effort in 2002's Road to Perdition
. Though the film was given a fair share of praise, much of this centered on how beautifully shot the film/cinematography was. While it was definitely a great film, the real highlights didn't come from Mendes, Tom Hanks, Jude Law, Paul Newman or even Daniel Craig.
Enter Thomas Newman.
The American film composer has provided the underscoring for a good number of movies. Yet in-spite of his works being nominated several times for Best Original Soundtrack, he's yet to be awarded one. A true shame, because he's provided some of the best, most varied, atmospheric and, oftentimes, subtle scores. And as it turns out, the score for Road to Perdition
happens to be one of his triumphing compositions. Those who might be familiar with Mr. Newman will feel right at home when listening to this score, since various sounds that have become associative with him are found here. For instance, "Just the Feller" will be an eerily similar hearing to parts from the American Beauty
Of course, what would a film's accompanying soundtrack be without legitimately original pieces" And, thankfully, Road to Perdition
has its share of these. A few of the more immediately distinguishable tracks are opening "Rock Island, 1931," "Road to Chicago" (played in the DVD menu) and the title track. As aforementioned, however, Thomas Newman has a tendency to let ambiance personify his music, and we're treated wonderfully to this throughout. "Murder (in Four Parts)" is the soundtrack's longest piece, clocking in at just under 8 minutes. While you'll certainly find longer tracks in other movies, it's a pleasant surprise to find that this much time can go by without dragging on. Once again, this is partly thanks to the mesmerizing atmosphere created; it's hard to listen to these tracks without thinking of the scenes they were used in (or think of some other, illustrative images).
More calm, serene and even tragic pieces can be found in the twenty-seven track listening for Road to Perdition
's soundtrack. The title track is probably the strongest indication of this (along with "The Farm"), but fans of the film will be pleased to know that the piano duet played within the film's first act (between Hanks and Newman) is included as the closing track. Then we get a combination of the ambient and serene in parts, seen at their peak in "Ghosts," arguably the best piece in the soundtrack. While most of the runtime for the track is comprised of gradual build-up to add suspense, the dramatic climax about halfway lends it a lovely, paralyzing feel.
For all that can be said about what Thomas Newman has bestowed upon us here, the music leaves an impact that truly needs to be listened from start to finish. It's seldom that work this fine can be found, even within a the best scores for the best films. Newman has given us a powerful and tragically overlooked soundtrack in what he provided for Road to Perdition
. Though one might long for some of the shorter tracks to last longer, it's hard to complain when the quality is so immaculate.