Scorsese has been in the limelight more this year than I think even Scorsese intended. Putting that obvious elephant in the room aside, I don’t think I’ve been more excited for a Netflix exclusive than I have been for The Irishman. It wasn’t just because there were names slapped on the film that would make anyone’s dopamine levels go into overdrive, but because Scorsese has a special way of showing the human condition through character and his own way of storytelling. There’s a reason why he is a living master of cinema and The Irishman is another name on his long list of inspiring films.
After Silence, I said that Scorsese films were getting more and more intelligent, The Irishman continues this intelligent storytelling through writing that is extremely clever and riveting. Steven Zaillian wrote this film who has also worked with Scorsese on Gangs of New York as well as the equally lengthy Schindler’s List. This is essentially the forgotten story of Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino) and his disappearance through the eyes and actions of his bodyguard Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro). It’s a very meaty script, there are a lot of characters to remember and lots of scenes where the characters are just talking, but Zaillian’s experience in writing lengthy scripts makes the story easily consumable.
Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci. Need I say more about performances? Seeing as this is a review, I feel obligated to say that for livelong Scorsese fans, this cast list is heavenly. Every single one of them feels so in their element that these A-List titans disappear into their roles and you’re just seeing their characters deal with events. It’s a slice of life story and you never once think to yourself “I’m watching Robert De Niro” or “I’m watching Joe Pesci”, Pesci I’m incredibly lucky that I get to see him coming out of acting retirement just for this project. Surely, when you can get an actor out of retirement, you’ve got something special, I’m sure most actors would come back from the dead if they could, just to star in a Scorsese film.
One editing detail that I found to be quite clever is how sometimes a new character appears and the film would tell you their name and how & when they died. At first, I thought this was this made no sense as we hadn’t gotten to the root of what The Irishman is about, however as going further into the narrative it becomes so clear and so clever. This is an exploration into classic mob mentality and how everyone is out to better benefit themselves, but The Irishman takes it a step further and looks at the inevitable loneliness of having such a life. I felt editor Thelma Schoonmaker did a fantastic job as showcasing these meanings through the editing of The Irishman.
A big talking point about this film is the use of CGI to de-age the actors. I will admit for a short amount of time, it does take some getting used to, but eventually, it starts to blend very well. It’s also quite consistent in how well it blends as over time we see the characters becoming older, so wrinkles start showing, skin becomes looser but by this point, you’re too engrossed in the story to notice these subtle changes.
This is Scorsese’s longest film to date at a near 3-and-a-half-hour runtime which has been another big talking point, which does ask the question whether the story of The Irishman deserves this kind of length. Confidently it does, however, you can still feel the effects of time passing. Whilst viewing this film, I had to check where I was up to and I thought an hour and a half or two hours had passed, nope, forty minutes. By that point, I had met possibly most of the characters of the film already and the plot had already established itself, leaving many moments where I questioned their intention and necessity.
I’ve already mentioned there is an abundance of characters to remember, while I said that the story may be easily consumable, it can be a little difficult to keep track of who’s who. This isn’t too much of a bother as it is a small price to pay when watching an epic like The Irishman, but if you’re determined and prepared to give the level of commitment necessary to stay interested in Scorsese’s storytelling, it gets much easier.
A monstrous sized film with monstrous craftsmanship. There’s your short summary members of the press. Can you expect anything different when Scorsese is at the wheel, The Irishman retraces some of the enduring themes of the crime genre by the sovereign of the genre. It’s a little slow, to begin with, which has become a welcoming change to Scorsese’s craft, it will be interesting to see if this is now the set-in-stone route he will take with any other films he makes. But the brilliant performances and story make up for any anxieties that seem to be off-putting.
Final Result: 9/10 – Excellent
Have you seen The Irishman? What did you think? Please let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.
Next Time: Motherless Brooklyn