The names Scorsese, De Niro, Pacino, and Pesci are synonymous with crime movies, and for good reason; they are responsible for some of the greatest to hit theaters over the last 50 years. Pacino has worked with De Niro numerous times in the past, and De Niro has worked with both Pesci and Scorsese several times as well, but never before have all four of these great artists ever worked on the same project together, not until now. “The Irishman” marks the first time all four of these Oscar-winners finally get the chance to collaborate, and the result is nothing short of greatness. Although the golden-age of mafia movies has passed, “The Irishman” brings viewers back to a time in which mob bosses and anti-heroes ruled the silver screen in classic Scorsese fashion.
“The Irishman” is based on the true story of Frank Sheeran, a hitman who worked with the Bufalino crime family during the 1950s and through the 80s. Told from the narrative perspective of Sheeran, the film follows his rise in the ranks through the mafia and consequently his relationship with Jimmy Hoffa, the infamous labor union leader whose death still remains a mystery to this day. Jumping through time, the movie shows the harsh realities of the mob and the ways it ruined the lives of so many, including those mafia members who were responsible for so much of that misery.
The film features an amazing cast who all excel in their respective roles. Robert De Niro plays Frank Sheeran, Joe Pesci plays Russell Bufalino, and Al Pacino plays Jimmy Hoffa. The supporting cast is rounded out by Harvey Keitel, Bobby Cannavale, and Ray Romano. Each actor’s performance is magnetic; the three leads in particular show they still have the power to move audiences decades into their careers. What is so unique about this movie, and really all Scorsese movies in general, is that you can’t help but empathize for the characters on screen who do such horrible things and lack basic empathy. Through the phenomenal direction, outstanding performances, and exceptional script, “The Irishman” creates a perfect ensemble to tell a compelling narrative.
Because this movie spans over forty years, Scorsese decided to use de-aging technology to make his actors, who are all in their seventies, look decades younger. With a film as temporally expansive as this one is, I agree with the decision to keep the same few actors regardless of their changes in age throughout the film. Using special cameras and digital alteration technology, the film attempted to accomplish this digital de-aging. The only drawback is that there are instances where this de-aging technology is quite noticeable, which took me out of the film at times and was fairly distracting. Although it definitely doesn’t look bad, I wouldn’t say that it looks great either. Filmmakers are absolutely close to perfecting this technology, but as apparent in films like “Tron: Legacy,” “Rogue One,” and now “The Irishman,” there is still some progress to be made.
Martin Scorsese is one of the greatest filmmakers of today and arguably of all time. He is behind countless near-perfect movies and his career ranges over 5 decades. From masterpieces like “Taxi Driver,” and “Raging Bull,” to his more recent accomplishments like “The Aviator,” “The Departed,” and “The Wolf of Wall Street,” Scorsese adds yet another instant-classic to his filmography with the release of “The Irishman.” Where this movie fits into his entire career I cannot say, as he has created so many exceptional films that it would be an injustice to view them in this manner. However, “The Irishman” does share some glaring similarities with his 90s classics “Goodfellas” and “Casino.” Their graphic nature, epic-like feel, and unique modes of story-telling are all something they share. I would say “The Irishman” is more of a slow-burner than these other two, which I’d liken more to firework shows. That being said, its slower nature is not a fault but instead one of its better qualities. Scorsese’s own age reflects in this film, not in the sense that it is outdated in anyway but instead that it has a feeling of inherent wisdom that comes with making movies for so long and it simply feels more methodical in its story-telling. Its slower-than-usual pace allows the viewer to be truly immersed in the crime world of the Bufalino’s and sincerely feel all the pain that the characters within the diegesis experience.
“The Irishman” has a lengthy runtime of 3 hours and 29 minutes, which I understand might seem daunting for a single viewing. Although the film is extremely long, none of the scenes feel irrelevant. The careful time taken in this movie help allow it to go beyond the basic “mafia-movie” tropes of all mobsters being these stoic and inhuman fiends. Instead, we are treated to scenes with their families and friends, going for ice cream, taking road trips, and opening Christmas presents, thus making the film all the more heartbreaking. Nevertheless, I don’t think that the runtime should in anyway discourage those who want to experience this great film from watching it. Although there exists some sort of film-aficionado taboo with watching a film in parts, I advise you to disregard. This movie is in many ways episodic in nature, and although you do get so much out of viewing the film in one sitting, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t watch it at your own pace. The graphic above describes a way of breaking the film down so that it can be watched in four blocks as if it were a miniseries. But, if you do have the time to view it all at once I definitely suggest doing so.
“The Irishman” is fantastically entertaining, and truly plunges you into the crime world that Sheeran both lived in and helped build. It’s a movie with so much to offer its viewers and easily one of the best films of the year. “The Irishman” is currently streaming on Netflix and has also been given a limited-release in theaters. Be sure to check it out soon as it will definitely be a contender come awards season!
Cover Photo: IMDB