The Irishman

The Irishman ★★★★½

The Irishman is a 209 minute congregation of the various films and themes Scorsese has been working on for decades. It's a distinct distillation of his evocative religious pieces and his dynamic gangster pieces, and a perfect example of how these two types of films make perfect sense coming from the same director. The basic framework of the story has been done before, both by Scorsese and by many others, and it's the type of story that is its own dying breed - as it should be, I've seen enough antiheroes stricken with regret to last a lifetime. However, it's Martin Scorsese through and through, and the man knows how to make a great movie.

Thelma Schoonmaker is also a legendary editor, which explains why this behemoth of a runtime doesn't even feel quite as long as some other much shorter films this year. It's certainly a bit bloated and a bit meandering, as any 209 minute film will be, and for the amount it crams in, it still manages to shortchange the women in the story. Yes, I realize it's supposed to reflect how much at the periphery the women were at in Sheeran's life, and to clarify - it’s not actually the lack of dialogue that’s the issue, I couldn’t care less how little dialogue a character gets if the role calls for that. The issue is the role itself and its screen time/portrayal relative to the rest of the story. It just doesn’t feel as important as it is meant to be, and certainly is not up to par with how much credit the hardcore Paquin/Scorsese defenders are giving that storyline. I just don’t understand how you can come away thinking that Paquin had the most fleshed out role, best performance, or was the focal point of the story - she’s the emotional focal point in theory only.

Nevertheless, it's still a really fantastic film. De Niro, Pacino, and Pesci are all as wonderful as you heard - Pacino gets the flashiest role, perhaps the type of role that would normally be reserved for a Joe Pesci, but Pesci really shines as a wise, watchful mob boss. Furthermore, Robert De Niro turns in the most impressive lead male performance of the year. His character is one who by nature is the silent but deadly killer, the one on the sidelines, the one at the edge of the frame, the one who's swept along throughout history - but at the same time, he plays a central role in shaping that history, in determining what's at the center of the frame. De Niro and Prieto's camera track that journey, finally settling on a moment in time in which Frank Sheeran is front and center. When we do get to that point, the inevitability of time and loss is etched onto every line in his face and every sentence out of his mouth. It's mournful and hauntingly sad, from a simple phone call all the way to the powerful final shot. The film, like the character, is one that tries to capture the old days through its camera work, its storytelling, and even its technology, but it's a film (and a cast and crew) that's acutely aware of how things have changed. And at the end, it both accepts and struggles to grasp its place in the world now, staring out into an empty hallway as it waits for an answer. 


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