Starring: Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Al Pacino
Director: Martin Scorsese
Running Time: 209 mins
The Irishman is an American film about the story a former mob enforcer who recounts his rise through the ranks, and his relationship with and possible involvement in the disapperance of Jimmy Hoffa.
To put it simply, The Irishman is an all-time classic. That might be expected coming from a director of the stature of Martin Scorsese, but this film is surely one of his crowning achievements. A mesmerising three and a half hour epic, The Irishman is the most comprehensive mob movie since The Godfather, bringing astonishing emotional resonance, unique humour, deep insight and unprecedented innovation to a timeless genre.
Gangster movies have always had a capacity to excite and intrigue, bringing you close to life outside the law, and giving a vivid insight into a world filled both with glamour and hardship. Scorsese is arguably the greatest filmmaker the genre has ever known, and with a repertoire including Goodfellas, Casino and so many more, it’s hardly surprising that The Irishman is such a great film.
However, more than just another mob movie, The Irishman covers all bases in magnificent fashion. It has the intrigue, the violence and the excitement that the best of the genre are so famous for, but you feel that there’s a lot more at stake here, as Scorsese takes a uniquely patient and deeply reflective look at the world he has brought to life in such stunning fashion before.
With a cast of aging legends including Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Al Pacino, the film is teeming with stirking maturity and wisdom wherever you look. Playing out as Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) reflects on his life and rise through the ranks of the mob, you feel that sense of reflection and introspection at every moment, as Scorsese takes a nostalgic look back to the past while simultaneously bringing a totally new perspective to a classic story.
There is so much going at every moment in The Irishman, but with a slow and often very calm pace and atmosphere, that theme of reflection is overwhelming at times, building with such stunning emotional resonance throughout to an exceptional conclusion that, after three and a half hours, caps off one of the most spectacular cinematic experiences you will ever have.
Now, you might think that, given The Irishman is so long, that it’s easy to be so in-depth, deeply moving and intriguing. However, not just anyone can make a three and a half hour movie sing quite like Martin Scorsese. The Irishman is slow, quiet, and very, very long.
But with a director of Scorsese’s immense confidence, talent and knowledge behind the camera, the entire film flows beautifully, combining the traditional three-act structure with innovative narrative techniques that not only make the film a consistently mesmerising watch, but also add even more to its emotional power.
As a result, you will barely notice the runtime here. The Irishman is undoubtedly the best three hour-plus film I have ever seen, not only because it flies by in such spellbinding fashion, but also because it simultaneously feels big, epic, and brings home the significance of its story as it takes you through the exhilarating ups and downs of an incredible life.
I’m painting a very majestic picture of The Irishman here, but it’s true when I say that this is a magnificent piece of work, and may very well be Martin Scorsese’s magnum opus. But not only does The Irishman show a director at the height of his powers, but also three legendary actors.
Robert De Niro stars in the central role, and gives an exceptional performance throughout. In tandem with unprecedented and frankly astonishing de-aging technology, his performance is filled with everything that has made him such an icon of cinema through the years. Emotional, charismatic, versatile and magnetic throughout, De Niro owns the screen for every minute of those three and a half hours.
Alongside, Joe Pesci returns to the big screen with a performance that can only be described as the very antithesis of his most renowned role from Goodfellas. Pesci is quiet and subtle throughout, but at the same time brings an inimitable intensity to the role that embodies what is so great about The Irishman, brilliantly combining a mature and reflective attitude with the legendary excitement and grit of the gangster genre.
And finally, Al Pacino stars for the first time under the direction of Martin Scorsese in a role that also steps away from what he’s most renowned for. Carrying a lot of the film’s most bombastic energy, Pacino is exciting and thoroughly entertaining to watch, but gives a performance that still carries the weight his character and the history absolutely deserves.
And that’s not to mention the dozens of brilliant supporting turns that not only play a vital role in the film, but add even more to its epic proportions and narrative depth. With such brilliant acting talent and boundless energy on display, The Irishman is just as entertaining (and even hilarious) a watch as it is emotionally staggering, yet another reason why those initially daunting three and a half hours are some of the most memorable you’ll ever spend at the movies.
As I said earlier, The Irishman is an all-time classic. It stands confidently alongside not only the best of the gangster genre, but the titans of cinematic history. Martin Scorsese works at the height of his powers to deliver a unique, innovative and thoroughly satisfying watch, bringing stunning emotional resonance to the table in the form of a deeply reflective attitude to his story. With three legendary actors in the lead roles, there’s no shortage of talent and energy in front of the camera, and through performances that perfectly embody Scorsese’s passionate directing, the film all comes together in truly beautiful fashion.
Overall, there’s no denying the masterpiece that is The Irishman, and that’s why I’m giving it a 9.0.