The Last of Us was heavily inspired from Tom Hanks' Road to Perdition, a 2002 film about a mob enforcer trying to raise his son.
Tom Hanks may think his neo-noir drama Road to Perdition is underrated, but apparently, it was a big inspiration for what is now one of the biggest HBO shows running (along with being a massively successful and beloved game). The Last of Us co-creator Neil Druckmann appeared on the official podcast for the HBO series, and he specifically pointed to the relationship between Hanks’ character and his son in Road to Perdition as an inspiration for Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie’s (Bella Ramsey) relationship. He mentioned that it’s one of his favorite movies and said “Tom Hanks does everything he can to protect his son from ever getting corrupted by violence.
In Road to Perdition, Tom Hanks plays a mob enforcer named Michael Sullivan, who tries to protect his young son from the violent mob lifestyle he’s become involved in. It’s easy to see Joel feeling a similar obligation to Ellie throughout The Last of Us. There are multiple times when Joel tries to have Ellie hide or look away when violence happens, and he feels deep regret when she has to commit violence herself or witness it.
Of course, violence is inevitable in The Last of Us, as the characters have to navigate a post-apocalyptic landscape ravaged by a mind-controlling fungal infection. Along with having to kill plenty of infected to survive, Joel and Ellie encounter various violent factions of humans. It’s definitely not a world where a character like Ellie can be shielded from violence forever, no matter how hard Joel tries.
The cycle of violence is a theme that runs throughout The Last of Us show and video game, and it’s especially prevalent in the video game The Last of Us Part II. With the massive popularity of the HBO series, it seems inevitable that the second game will be adapted in future seasons. As people who have played the game know, there will be plenty more violence that Joel and Ellie won’t be able to avoid in the future.
It’s interesting to hear Neil Druckmann’s take on his influences for The Last of Us, especially since Road to Perdition isn’t part of the post-apocalypse genre. Similar themes are certainly present, so it makes sense that Druckmann was inspired by it. However, it’s a bit of a left-field choice since it’s a Tom Hanks drama that doesn’t always get a lot of attention, despite great performances from Hanks, Daniel Craig, Jude Law, and the rest of the cast.
While you shouldn’t go into The Last of Us expecting a setting similar to Road to Perdition, it’s still a show worth your time. The big-budget HBO drama is already considered one of the best and most faithful video game adaptations of all time. Even people who have played the game will find new things to enjoy despite the show generally hitting the same story beats.
The most recent episode of The Last of Us, “Kin” is now available to stream on HBO Max along with the rest of the season. The next episode will be hitting HBO on Sunday, and it looks like it will be adapting the popular Left Behind add-on content from the original game. Stay tuned for more news on the series and other HBO shows.