Other than Ford V. Ferrari, The Irishman was another anticipated film to come out in November that I was looking forward to due to the director (Martin Scorsese) and all the praise that it’s been getting. Unlike the films that I’ve reviewed in the past, this one is being released the day before Thanksgiving via Netflix, but I was given the opportunity to see it early thanks to the local independent theater in my hometown. Did The Irishman live up to my expectations? As usual, let’s find out.
Loosely based on a true story and set in non-chronological order during the ‘50-‘70s and briefly in the 2000s, we follow Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro), a driver in Philadelphia who comes across a mob boss, Russel Bufalino (Joe Pesci), that hires Frank as a hitman for the mafia. As time passes, Frank gets introduced to Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino), who hires him as his personal bodyguard while he’s on the road. From there Frank serves as an avatar for the audience as we see him going through the criminal life of Jimmy Hoffa.
I won’t beat around the bush with this one: The Irishman is my favorite Martin Scorsese film of the decade and possibly ever. Granted, I haven’t seen his entire filmography, but after what I had seen, his other films are hard to top.
What makes The Irishman stand out from other Scorsese flicks is how they shot this film. Because the story spans several decades they had to find a way to make the actors younger and older than they are at the moment. Other than casting actors who resemble the main cast, Scorsese decided to use visual effects that de-aged and aged them (a similar process that they do in the Marvel films). Throughout the film I was looking for any error in the visuals, but it was flawless all the way through and there are certain scenes I want to rewatch just to admire the effects. Aside from the visuals, the drama really worked well and it had me engaged almost all the way through it. This film clocks in at three hours and twenty-nine minutes and there times where I felt it, but as soon as I did there would be another scene with great moments of acting and direction where I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen.
(The following paragraph will contain spoilers, so if you don’t want The Irishman ruined for you then skip this paragraph)
As I mentioned earlier, The Irishman is told out of order as the film begins with Frank in a nursing home in the early 2000s. From there he reflects on his life and recounts all the bad deeds that he’s done as a hitman. Towards the end of the film he accepts that he doesn’t have much time left before he dies. While I didn’t feel entirely sympathetic towards him through a good chunk of the film, the last twenty minutes or so I did as not only did he accept his fate, but he tries to make amends for his wrongdoings. For example, several times before the film ends he meets up with a priest to try and confess his sins and grow closer to God. While I don’t condone Frank’s actions throughout the film, I do admire his desire to grow closer to God and his remorse for what he had done.
If you’re not used to films that last over two and a half hours or you are not intrigued by mob films, then The Irishman may not be the movie for you. If those things don’t bother you however then I highly recommend checking this film out as the direction, cinematography, the visual effects on the actors, and the acting were all superb. I deeply enjoyed it and hope to re-experience it soon. Definitely in my top five films for 2019.