The Irishman

The Irishman ★★★★½

In Martin Scorsese's Silence, a young man tries to be a martyr and learns to become a (figurative) soldier. Despite its discrete milieu, Scorsese's follow-up presents a mirror-image of that thesis statement: an anonymous (literal) soldier serves a fruitless cause and longs to be remembered after he dies. The scope is sweeping, the performances intimate underneath all the bombast. Pacino grounds his predictably larger-than-life Jimmy Hoffa in a tragic pettiness. Pesci, by contrast, seems nearly omnipotently still, capable of killing with a single nod. The sudden decline of Russell Bufalino is one of the movie's most devastating touches. Between these two poles stands Robert De Niro, more alive than he's been in two decades, slowly lapsing from passiveness into helplessness into despair. Avoid The Irishman only if you want to stay secure about your own mortality.

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