During the Cold War, an American lawyer is recruited to defend an arrested Soviet spy in court, and then help the CIA facilitate an exchange of the spy for the Soviet captured American U2 spy plane pilot, Francis Gary Powers.
1931. Mike Sullivan and Connor Rooney are two henchmen of elderly downstate IL-based (Quad City area, though much of the action takes place in the Chicago area) Irish-American mobster John Rooney, Connor's father. In many respects, John treats Mike more as his son, who he raised as his own after Mike was orphaned, than the volatile Connor, who nonetheless sees himself as the heir apparent to the family business. One evening, Mike's eldest son, twelve year old Michael Sullivan Jr., who has no idea what his father does for a living, witnesses Connor and his father gun down an associate and his men, the situation gone wrong initiated from an action by Connor. Caught witnessing the incident, Michael is sworn to secrecy about what he saw. Regardless, Connor, not wanting any loose ends, makes an attempt to kill Mike, his wife and their two sons. Mike and the surviving members of his family know that they need to go on the run as Connor, who has gone into hiding, will be protected through ...Written by
Michael Jr. reads "The Lone Ranger" in 1931. It was created for radio in 1933; the books were published even later. See more »
Michael Sullivan, Jr.:
There are many stories about Michael Sullivan. Some say he was a decent man. Some say there was no good in him at all. But I once spent 6 weeks on the road with him, in the winter of 1931. This is our story.
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Thanks to all at the Donmar Warehouse Theatre, London See more »
Great direction, sluggish plot, good (if not great) performances not a classic but a good film
Michael Sullivan works for John Rooney. When Sullivan's son, Mike, hides in Sullivan's car to find out what he actually does for Rooney he finds that his father is a hired gun, a gangster if you will. Mike sees his father and Rooney's son Connor kill three men. Connor begins to suspect that Mike could tell someone and thus expose that Connor is stealing his father's money and goes to kill the family. His attempt on Mike and Sullivan fails but his wife and other son are dead. Sullivan and his son take to the road, with Sullivan's desire for his son's safety only slightly behind his desire for revenge on Connor.
I have a problem with modern films. No. I have a problem with how modern films are hyped. Can't anything just be good anymore? It seems everything either has to be rubbish or a masterpiece. Look how many films jump straight into high positions in the imdb 250 list to see what I mean. But on top of that films are advertised as being amazing etc rather than slightly more subdued messages.
Here we have the `best gangster film ever made' and `better than the Godfather'. Neither of these statements are true but that's not to say that it is rubbish. It's a good, often wonderful film that is as good in some ways as it is poor in others. I was lucky to approach it with not having read reviews and mostly managing to miss the `epic' trailers that are everywhere and I was the better for it, with no expectation then you can't be let down!
The plot is a little predictable in how it develops and where it ends, but it's still enjoyable. The weakness of it however is the use (or misuse) or the parental theme. Where was it? The foundations were laid with Sullivan and his son, Rooney with his son and a father/son thing between Sullivan and Rooney. But what was done with it? Very little apart from some minor bonding between the two Michaels. It felt like there was more there that either wasn't or didn't come out. The story felt heavy at points too, the relationship between the two Michaels didn't flow and there were too many scenes which felt ponderous. I didn't want more action but I wanted it tighter or at least with a bit more soul behind the dialogue and the characters.
The cast is like a heavy weight boxer and therefore I did expect it to hit harder. To be blunt Hanks is not right for this role. A lot was made out of him being a `bad guy' but was he really playing a bad guy? He tries hard to not overplay it and lose the audience but I felt the film was trying to give him as much moral leeway as possible. The majority of his killings are in the name of revenge which, in film morals, is fine. The only killing before the death of his family we don't see him do, and we have him say `we're just going to talk?' before hand and then shout at his partner for putting him in a killing situation. Compare this to Leon (aka The Professional) he is cold and ruthless and we love him more for his emotional growth and love. Here Hanks only really shines when being friendly or in the rare comedy moments. I felt he laced the ability, the desire or maybe the audience acceptance to be able to play `bad' and take his character beyond it into a development.
Newman is good in a few scenes but isn't working too hard for his money. His role is good but it's at his tiredest when he does well. Law is excellent despite his cartoon villain character he is best in his early scenes and his first meeting with Sullivan is good. Tucci is good and Leigh is good for all she has to do. Craig is good value and is very well cast. Hoechlin is very good and deserves the Oscar nomination that he will no doubt get for supporting actor. But none of these were the powerhouse performances I had hoped for with such a top class cast available.
The star of the film is Mendes himself. People were surprised by how well he directed in his debut and if he got an Oscar for that then he simply must have one for this. Ignoring the weaknesses in plot, pacing and some of the performances, visually this is stunning. Normal shots from cars and of snow are really well set up and shot, while the tour de force is a shoot out in the silence, in the rain where the camera's focus is on one man's resignation and almost ignores the carnage all around. The clichés of the plot and the slight ponderous feel of the beast may distract but I found myself admiring the shots and noticing the imagination Mendes showed in his direction. There are so many well directed or clever scenes in this that I almost forgot that this was not the norm for films.
Overall it isn't rubbish and it isn't the best gangster film ever made. Instead it is a good film about parental relationships and revenge that doesn't really address either. Instead it feels sluggish at times and could have had more spark from a talented and deep cast. But Mendes makes everything feel and look clever and makes the film better. `A really good multiplex experience despite the failings' put that one your poster!
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