Irishman, The (2019)

Scorsese delivers another career-high mob film that is quite unlike what he has done before in what could be a strong Best Picture contender.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Dir. Martin Scorsese
2019 | USA | Biography/Crime/Drama | 209 mins | 1.85:1 | English
M18 (passed clean) for pervasive language and strong violence

Cast: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel, Ray Romano
Plot: A mob hitman recalls his possible involvement with the slaying of Jimmy Hoffa.
Awards: Nom. for 10 Oscars – Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (x2), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, Best Visual Effects
Distributor: Netflix

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate
Narrative Style: Complex
Pace: Normal
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream

Viewed: Netflix
Spoilers: No

For fans of Martin Scorsese’s mob films about the intricacies of organised crime and violent gangsters at its forefront, The Irishman is another in the long line of career-high achievements by arguably America’s living cinema legend.  (Goodfellas (1990) and Casino (1995) are probably the film’s closest cousins.) 

A prestige picture made for Netflix, and featuring breakthrough de-ageing technology that feels so seamless in its execution that you won’t notice it after a short while, The Irishman is a tour de force in storytelling and acting, starring Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci. 

Longer in duration than even The Godfather Part II (1974), Scorsese’s work gives these veterans plenty of time to work their magic together as they loosely play real-life figures Frank Sheeran, Jimmy Hoffa and Russell Bufalino respectively. (It’s fascinating to Google them and read more about their life stories after watching the movie.) 

“You always charge a guy with a gun! With a knife, you run away.”

Their strong triangular relationship is what propels The Irishman forward… and backward in time to their early years.  Although there are numerous flashbacks,the film is as much an origin story as it is an elegy for the passing of time, of perhaps living on for too long and being afflicted by a conscience that haunts.

Through the deft narrative structure, Scorsese’s film is quietly engrossing and doesn’t quite feel its length.  It is also quite unlike what the filmmaker has done before—gone is his high-energy visual style and editing, and in comes a more measured approach.  This will be a strong contender for the Oscar for Best Picture, alongside 1917 and Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

Grade: A




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