Brett Schutt @ Sundance’s review published on Letterboxd:
This is gonna be a tough one to review.
I hate being the contrarian. Look, I love it when movies are praised and everyone is just enamored by filmmaking. It's such a good feeling and a feeling 2019 is delivering on so well. I had heard so many incredible things about The Irishman before watching it. From the trailers, it looked to me like just Scorsese going back to his roots and making a decent mafia movie. However, I heard from several others this movie was a meditative look on his entire career and the aging process in general.
The last thirty minutes of The Irishman is a perfect movie. I was in awe of it and surprisingly moved by it. I think it might be De Niro's single best performance he has ever done and he absolutely deserves attention for his work. It's a slow and poignant look on the grief and sin we all carry on our backs as we grow old. It was stunning. However, I believe a lot of people are thinking of the last thirty minutes of this movie and not remembering the three hour build up.
Maybe that isn't fair. I can absolutely see why people LOVE this movie. It is Scorsese playing to his strengths and going back to what made him such a prolific filmmaker in the first place. I just don't have the same deep rooted love for the filmmakers films that others do. If this tells you anything, Hugo is easily my favorite of his films I've seen. That's also a very special and dear movie to me though- it isn't saying the man hasn't made any other great films. Taxi Driver, Silence and Goodfellas are also just incredibly pieces of filmmaking.
I just feel like The Irishman is too familiar to the mob genre. I've seen this movie before- several times. The way it is cut, edited and written feels so familiar to me that I didn't find much thrill to be had. There are a few scenes that involve shoot outs that I found riveting and that's about it.
I feel as though a lot of the cinematography feels like a TV show. All the colors are grey and saturated. I get the choice in doing this but nothing ever jumped out and felt alive to me. I also found a lot of the editing choices to be kinda wonky. There are some classic Scorsese pans and zooms that I adore. I will say though, there are some edits that I feel like just broke continuity that had no real reason to them and made the film feel kinda cheap at times.
A lot of people have been discussing the deaging the film does and I also found this to be really distracting. The young Deniro aging looks like a character out of The Polar Express. It does get a little better after a while but the eyes were shifty a lot of the time. Maybe I wouldn't have noticed as much if I were more engaged in what was going on.
I think Joe Pesci deserves recognition for his role. In the past, he's known to be the man to come in and curse really loudly and be dangerous. This is a much quieter, reflective performance and I was really impressed by it. It's one of the only things in the film that subverted my expectations in an interesting way and I feel like he is more deserving of a supporting actor nom than Al Pachino. Al Pachino is good in this movie but he does what he does in just about every movie and there's little to no substance in his performance then just being larger than life. I get that's what the character is called to do but I found the scenes with just him to be less engaging in my humble opinion.
I'm ragging on this movie more then I want to. There's a heck of a lot of good in this film. Great needle drops like Scorsese does at his best. Some terrific performances and the single fact you made a three and a half hour movie like this and made it this tight is impressive. This movie did drag in a couple of scenes for me but I stayed up very late last night to finish it and that is a testament to the filmmaker. I just think this is an imperfect movie and towards the bottom of Scorsese filmography. I know that's a big hot take, but that is just how I feel right now about it. I think it might grow on me with time but for now it's another solid Scorsese mafia film with one heck of an ending that sells the rest of the film that feels just a tad bit familiar.