In recent interviews, Martin Scorsese has made it clear how he feels about the influx of comic book films in recent years. He believes cinema is an art form that brings the unexpected. In superhero movies, however, nothing is at risk and therefore it doesn’t qualify as cinema.
Though this can rub many movie-goers the wrong way, it’s hard not to respect the opinion of a director who has been proven throughout his over-50-year career to be a master of his craft. Scorsese is the recipient of multiple Oscar nominations and was awarded “Best Director” for his 2007 crime-drama “The Departed.” His films are known for giving viewers an honest look inside people’s lives, often providing sobering truths.
“The Irishman” is the latest addition to Scorsese’s filmography, released as a Netflix original movie on Nov. 27. The film tells the story of a labor union official, Frank Sheeran, played by Robert De Niro. The movie is told from Sheeran’s perspective and follows his development from an ordinary truck driver to a hitman after he befriends a crime family, led by patriarch Russell Bufalino, played by Joe Pesci. The film also follows Sheeran’s possible involvement in the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa, played by Al Pacino.
The entire film is told in flashbacks as Frank recalls his time in the mob — through the assignments he had and the people he met along the way. With this, the viewer witnesses a young De Niro — crafted through computer-generated de-aging. This is the first thing that I will applaud the film for. The CGI technology displayed throughout this film was near seamless for De Niro, Pacino and Pesci. The film tells a story that stretches over 60 years’ time, so it is essential for these characters to be captured as their younger selves. Other than a few scenes where De Niro’s eyes become distracting as they glisten rather brightly, “The Irishman” pulled it off fantastically.
The film requires the viewer’s undivided attention due to dialogue taking up the majority of the runtime. There are definitely some scenes of intense action, but for the most part, talking, arguing and scheming make up a substantial portion of the film’s substance. Although this can be an issue for some viewers, it was one of the film’s greatest strengths. The characters in the film have great chemistry as every conversation feels important and adds to the development of each character. Each character possesses a smooth Italian accent that is candy to the ears and really captures the city setting of the movie.
Something noteworthy of this film is the runtime. The movie is officially clocked in at 209 minutes, which is the longest movie I’ve seen since “The Lord of the Rings.” The runtime feels earned as there is a lot of ground to cover, which is necessary to the development of the narrative told by Sheeran.
One reason for the lengthy runtime is the silence in many scenes. This movie allows characters to think, creating a realistic route wherein sometimes you lack the right words to say, and pondering is necessary. It was impressive how this film captured how the character was feeling through facial expressions alone. Though these scenes are not the most entertaining, they are riveting to witness. It’s a testament to the talent in front of the camera for this movie.
It’s no surprise that the acting throughout the film is exceptional, with Hollywood icons like De Niro, Pesci and Pacino. It can be easy to look at them as the actors themselves instead of characters within a film. However, they do a remarkable job of disappearing into their roles.
The music in this film is mysterious and mischievous, matching the character’s gangster lifestyle. The score provides melancholic blues and smooth jazz that plays in the background, blending perfectly with the action of each scene. Whether Sheeran is just walking to his car, or dumping a gun into the ocean, the score adds emotion and excitement to each sequence.
“The Irishman” is a mob masterpiece that tells the story of Frank Sheeran in an exquisite way. He is likable, but he makes mistakes along the way, making him a relatable character. It was also surprisingly funny as characters become so intense over the smallest of things. Although it’s unjustified, it’s very humorous to watch.
The film digs into the process of getting older and how who you surround yourself with affects your future. There are a few moments where the film can drag with minimal action, but each part of the movie felt integral to the satisfying and emotional conclusion that this film delivers.