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Without a doubt, Martin Scorsese is one of the biggest reasons I love movies. I honestly feel extremely privileged to be a able to sit in a movie theater and watch a movie directed by the same guy who directed Taxi Driver and Mean Streets in the 1970s. Of course we have movies like Raging Bull, Goodfellas, Cape Fear, Casino, The Departed, and The Wolf of Wall Street, but we don’t have many active directors who started making masterpieces in the 1970s. I was also excited to see Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci back with Scorsese. I wouldn’t be the movie fan I am without this trio, and they added Al Pacino, Harvey Keitel, Ray Romano, Bobby Cannavale, and more. That cast and this filmmaker had me wondering if this was the next instant classic before I even walked into the theater.
The Irishman is directed by Martin Scorsese and stars Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel, Ray Romano, Bobby Cannavale, Jesse Plemons, and Anna Paquin. Frank Sheeran, played by De Niro, takes the audience through his life from truck driving to becoming a hit man to befriending and working for Jimmy Hoffa, a union leader who mysteriously disappeared in the mid 1970s.
I’m going to show my cards early on in this review. I absolutely adored this movie, and it somehow found way to surprise me in just about every way. Scorsese is the star of this film, and he has earned that title over the past 50 years. It’s unbelievable that a 76-year-old director is making movies with the energy, life, and creativity of a 25-year-old director but the prowess, intelligence, and control of a man going into his seventh decade of filmmaking. The Irishman is a much quieter, much more subdued movie than Goodfellas or The Wolf of Wall Street, but it doesn’t lose a step when it comes to energy and cadence in the storytelling. The Irishman takes its time in telling this story, but that time moves so quickly because Scorsese knows exactly what he what he wants to say with every shot and every line of dialogue. If you’re going to see this movie, you should probably be aware that it clocks in at about 3 and a half hours of real time, but it feels like it’s about 30 minutes shorter than it actually is. That’s mostly thanks to Scorsese’s style and voice, and I was invested enough in the film for it to fly by. In fact, if Scorsese said he had ten more minutes of interaction between Frank Sheeran and his family, I’d be first in line.
The performances are also brilliant, and it’s so nice to see De Niro and Pacino in movies that aren’t Dirty Grandpa and Jack and Jill. These guys still have it. They likely never lost it, but it took someone like Martin Scorsese to give them great storytelling and great characters to work with. Pacino will probably be looked at as the standout of the movie because he gets to act like Al Pacino. He gets to take it over the top, loudly swearing and verbally attacking everyone in his path. This is a vintage Pacino performance, but it never overpowers the tone of the film. The script, storytelling, and acting do such a great job of bringing the character to life that, and as someone who is mostly unfamiliar with Jimmy Hoffa, I completely bought him in this setting. Robert De Niro is also excellent in a much more subtle, reserved role. Again, it takes a certain maturity in the acting and directing to get a performance like this, and sometimes the role in which an actor doesn’t have to scream and yell is equally impressive. De Niro does such a great job of peeling back the layers of this character, and it works beautifully. I also loved Joe Pesci, and I was so happy to see him back with Scorsese and De Niro. He and De Niro play much different roles than I would have expected out of them, but I truly cannot picture other actors as these characters.
Of course De Niro and Pesci have fantastic chemistry, but the rest of the cast doesn’t miss a beat, and this movie is endlessly watchable even at its runtime because I was so fascinated by watching these characters interact in their element. Simple conversations, moments of thought, and moments of reflection are completely elevated because of how well these characters are built. Where most movies would grind to a halt, The Irishman is enthralling because it allows us to see so much about the humans in the story simply by putting them in their natural environments and letting them act naturally. Some scenes unravel, some scenes unfold, and some scenes move straight from beginning to end, but there is always a purpose and an emotional tie that really drives the scene home. It also uses technology extremely well. I’ve never seen visual effects used on humans in such an effective way when it comes to adding and subtracting years. It’s not an uncommon thing to struggle with. Look at Captain America: Civil War, a movie that was produced by the most successful studio in history. The de-aging of Robert Downey Jr. in the first act of that movie is pretty noticeable, but I didn’t find it distracting or jarring in the slightest in The Irishman, and the way it allowed these actors, at their respective ages, to play characters throughout their lives is a mind-blowing feat. Martin Scorsese continues to pick up on developing technology, and in The Irishman, he uses it better than I’ve ever seen it used.
I also love this movie’s commentary on the lifestyle it depicts. Scorsese is known for his crime films, and he can tend to romanticize and glorify that lifestyle. This movie doesn’t do that in the slightest. It makes the process of making decisions appear very difficult, which makes sense because The Irishman makes these characters take responsibility for each one of their actions. I think this is the second movie we’ve seen this year featuring a director looking back on and examining his career, both from a thematic and dramatic standpoint, with the first being Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. That said, this isn’t just Scorsese looking back on his career. This is Scorsese using everything he has learned throughout his career to make one of his best movies yet. The maturity it takes to tell a story this masterfully while also commenting on this genre, the humans in this depicted profession, humans in general, and the director himself is really impressive. Scorsese has been incredible thus far in his career, but I don’t know if he has ever been better than he is with The Irishman.
Overall, The Irishman isn’t just one of the best movies of the year. It’s one of the best movies I’ve seen from a director who has been a filmmaking master since the late 1960s. I’m not ready to call this Scorsese’s best movie because we haven’t had 30 to 50 years to let it sit with us and simmer, but I wouldn’t be surprised, in the least, if we’re talking about this movie in the same breath as Goodfellas in 20 years. Scorsese combines the life and energy of someone who just found his passion in film with the skill and knowledge of someone who has spent 50 years making movies, and, in that way, The Irishman feels like a movie 50 years in the making. It even pays off like a movie 50 years in the making. It spends a lot of time silently building characters and allowing us to watch them interact, but it never loses its cadence that kept me hooked for the entire runtime. The performances bring out the absolute best in these characters, and De Niro, Pacino, Pesci, and the rest of the cast make it feel as though we’re actually watching these people on-screen. Scorsese also gets a chance to comment on himself, the type of people he makes movies about, and people in general, and while only a certain group of people can relate directly with the events of this movie, so many will be able to connect with its themes regarding decision making, relationships, and time. This movie is 3 and a half hours long, but I could still see myself watching more, simply for the relationships this movie pumps life into. I also have to mention that the ending left me completely speechless. It’s the perfect emotional summation of what this movie has to say, and Scorsese absolutely sticks the landing. I’m going to give The Irishman a 10/10.
Will you be seeing The Irishman? Comment down in the comment section to let me know! As always, thank you, and keep listening to 88.7 The Pulse!