The Irishman

The Irishman ★★★★★

“I heard you paint houses...”

As most of my close friends might already know, I love gangster films. It is my favorite film genre. You will definitely find ‘The Godfather’, ‘GoodFellas’, ‘Scarface’, ‘City of God’, ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’, etc. up there among my top favorites of all time. And now here we have a gangster epic from none other than Martin Scorsese, with a dream cast lead by Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci in the forefront. You could imagine the hype and the excitement this film had on me then, right from the time it was announced. Still, I tried my best to keep all expectations at a bare minimum just to be on the safer side. But that wasn’t needed at all. It turns out that even if I have had kept my hopes sky high, I wouldn’t have got disappointed even a bit. ‘The Irishman’ is what dreams are made of for the lovers of the genre, or for film lovers in general on a broader perspective.

Now please do not go and watch ‘The Irishman’ expecting another ‘GoodFellas’ or ‘Casino’. Where ‘GoodFellas’ was more recklessly exhilarating and wildly entertaining, and ‘Casino’ being a safe rehash of ‘GoodFellas’ all over again, ‘The Irishman’ is somber, melancholic and mature. Probably the most mature of all Scorsese’s works till date. You know when a 209 minutes runtime is fully rewarding when you do not want the film to end but instead the film leaves you wanting for more once the credits start to pop on screen, despite the relaxed and stretched out pacing. Speaking of which, the pacing here is just perfect and works to the full advantage of the comprehensive story-telling.

The screenplay is beyond praise. Combined with legendary performances, it engrosses you from the word go and from there on it is one 209 minutes ride. Robert De Niro plays the central character of the story, Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran, and pulls off another performance of a lifetime. Joaquin Phoenix has got a strong contender at the Oscars this year, and I sincerely hope De Niro emerges the winner. Sorry Phoenix, you were great of course in ‘Joker’ but De Niro deserves all the praise even more, hands down. Watch out for the last 40 minutes of the film. De Niro’s performance in the final act is poignant, and brimming with the earnest pathos of a man who has lead a life of crime and reached the twilight of his life. One word, epic. Al Pacino as Jimmy Hoffa, another pivotal character, is equally appealing in his usual fierce self. In fact, the tempo gears up just like that with his entry 40+ minutes (I guess) into the film. Joe Pesci as Russell Bufalino is the polar opposite of his Tommy DeVito (GoodFellas) or Nicky Santoro (Casino). It’s such a beautifully restrained performance. Pesci steals every scene he is in with silent gestures for a change. The supporting cast is perfect and has collectively done a great job.

Thelma Schoonmaker, the editor, deserves a special mention. Especially considering the narrative which goes back and forth in timeline over the full 209 minutes runtime. Take a bow. Also, the special effects’ department. The de-ageing is astounding and remarkable.

Leave aside the story, the performances, and everything else, and still ‘The Irishman’ is a glorious, beautiful work of art. The photography. The subdued lightings. Frame compositions. The zoom-ins. Such a beauty. It’s beyond just words, seriously.

Martin Scorsese. It is such an overused statement, I know. But I mean it. The. Greatest. Filmmaker. Of. All. Time. “Above Kubrick??!!”, you might be thinking. Yes. Above Kubrick. You read it right, my friend. 77 years old, with over 50 years’ expertise in the industry and 25 feature films to his credit, and the man is still slaying it in style. God, I pray let me be at least half as enthusiastic and vigorous as Marty is now at this age, that is to say if I get to live as long in the first place. The greatest of the greats. Period.

It is such a cliché. But I just can’t just stop myself from saying it. ‘The Irishman’ is a masterpiece. Not just a masterpiece. But the masterpiece of the decade. Stop whatever you are doing and go watch it. Must, must, must watch.

Deepak Chazhoor liked these reviews