Directed by: #MartinScorsese
Written by: #StevenZaillian
The Irishman Movie Review
Martin Scorsese’s latest film, The Irishman depicts the life of Frank Sheeran, an army veteran who held close affiliations with the Bufalino crime family and Labor Union Leader Jimmy Hoffa in post-World War II America. It’s adapted for the screen by Steven Zaillian from Charles Brandt’s book I Heard You Paint Houses.
The first shot is a tracking shot drifting through the walls of an elderly care facility before settling down to meet ageing, ill of health Frank Sheeran (De Niro). On the surface, the shot works to introduce the character, but in actuality, it tells you everything you need to know about The Irishman thematically. This is a story about mortality, betrayal and regret – all themes captured in the opening shot.
It’s a film only Scorsese could make. A film brave enough to develop the humanity of its characters without ever flinching in the face of their sins. A film that explores American history and politics throughout, cut together between some uncomfortably funny sequences. It’ll be easy to make comparisons to Scorsese’s earlier works Goodfellas and Casino. But whilst Goodfellas brazenly explored the attraction to such a lifestyle and Casino took you on a Mafia-centric American history lesson, The Irishman hypnotises with a melancholic tone bursting out of its heart, showing the audience the dark reality of such a lifestyle. It never glorifies the lifestyle; it understands it. And as always, the score is visceral, cleverly blurring the lines between diegetic and non-diegetic sound working as a symbol of culture and time.
A lot has been made of the ‘youthification’ of its cast. When you first see it, it’s very noticeable. Although I think it’s noticeability has more to do with the constant talk about it beforehand, as opposed to the quality of the technology. Very quickly, you forget about it.
Thelma Schoonmaker’s editing once again proves she is the master of her profession. To have the patience to allow for important character development, maintain its melancholic tone throughout all while cutting a three and a half hour film that flies by is an impressive achievement. It is long, but never arduous, and there’s not a single frame I’d remove.
To single out any individual of the cast would do a disservice to the ensemble. De Niro turns in a subtle, disciplined, and introverted performance as the stone-hearted Frank Sheeran that makes you forget about Dirty Grandpa and Grudge Match. Pacino is taking full advantage of getting to work with Scorsese for the first time, giving a vivacious, charismatic turn as Hoffa. And Pesci is so gloriously restrained as Russell Bufalino (the antithesis of his other mob roles) that it breaks your heart that he will more than likely go back to enjoying his retirement now The Irishman has finished shooting. It’s as if the cast see parts of themselves within the themes of the film: they’re showing you just as much of themselves and their own history as they are the characters they’re portraying. Stephen Graham deserves equal acclaim as all of the above playing the awkward, and at times, terrifying Anthony Provenzano.
The devastatingly poignant third act takes this film from instant classic to a masterpiece. It sneaks up on you and surprises you. It’s only on reflection that you realise the final act is where the story was always heading. It becomes more than a tale of politics, Mafia and violence; it becomes a commentary on how the three isolate you and leave you alienated. All culminating in a final shot that will stay with you for a long time after seeing it.
Who’s to predict the chances of seeing these on and off-screen legends collaborating again? It may never happen. And that is why (standard of film aside) I’ll always be grateful to The Irishman.