The Irishman

The Irishman ★★★★★

If Goodfellas is a young man’s film, loaded with manic, coked-up life, then The Irishman is the film of a man slowing down, confronting and marinating the inevitability of mortality. This isn’t Goodfellas or Casino. This is Scorsese at his most reflective, crafting a masterwork that finds the filmmaker reflecting on everything he’s done and what it’s all amounted to. Scorsese is one of very few filmmakers who could manage a movie that ruminates on these themes in a meaningful, understated way, while seamlessly transitioning through hundreds of scenes and locations. If The Irishman isn’t Scorsese’s greatest film, it may be the clearest and most all-encompassing testament to his unique cinematic prowess. An absolute feast of a movie, so rich in humor and pathos and big, challenging ideas, Scorsese may have crafted the most deeply human American gangster movie this side of The Godfather. I hope Scorsese has many years and many more movies left in him, but The Irishman feels like about as conscious a career summation as any filmmaker has ever crafted. It’s a conscious reflection on just about everything the director has ever questioned, explored or depicted in film, distilled into 3.5 hours effortless to sit through thanks in large part to the peerless talents of editor Thelma Schoonmaker and shot through with a sense of elegy so profound it frequently took my breath away. So did the performances. Seeing Joe Pesci on screen again, fully engaged in a mournful, stoic masterclass of a performance, is an absolute gift. Watching Al Pacino give his best work since Heat, a whirling dervish of a performance channeled in the exact right direction is a delectable treat. I think this might be Robert de Niro’s best work on film, a performance that shows off every talent he’s ever exhibited on film, but with an additional register of pain, confusion and regret that can only come with age and wisdom. It is a truly titanic performance at the heart of a film that pulses with life, and whenever these aging artists finally do pass on, one can bet The Irishman will be prominent in discussing, understanding and celebrating their incredible work. Though I am excited for Killers of the Flower Moon, I don’t think Scorsese is topping this. This one is for the ages. 

That final shot still scares me.

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