The Irishman

The Irishman ★★★★½

Martin Scorsese has always been a mature filmmaker, taking his art seriously and imbuing his films with a wisdom that few possess. Yet The Irishman is Scorsese at his most mature and contemplative. After The Wolf of Wall Street was one last party picture, his subsequent films, Silence and The Irishman, have been the works of someone seriously reflecting on age and life. 

The Irishman is not Goodfellas. This is an older gangster picture. The action is dulled. The violence isn't exciting, it just is. The Irishman is about how things are, or were. There's nothing to fetishise about the gangster life. After thirty years, a gun is no longer a turn-on.

The Irishman is about being old. It's about those stubborn men who paradoxically thought they had seen everything but could go on forever. It's a film of men who never learn to apologise. This culminates in one of Scorsese's finest endings, an ambiguity that leaves us to ponder the mind of someone stuck with just memories. There is something truly sad about it. 

Goodfellas and Casino were masterpieces but The Irishman seems a response to their shallowest assets. What was loud and explicit is now silent. Anna Paquin is such an incredible presence, conveying unease and distance from the lead whilst also being a foil for his guilt, and she does this with literally no dialogue for most of her scenes. Scorsese doesn't need to be flashy anymore, just patient. He achieves the same depth, perhaps with even more insight.

You don't feel the length of The Irishman, which clocks in at three and a half hours. In fact, the added time allows The Irishman to dig deeper into the mob world than many of Scorsese's films. There's no young person's point-of-view as they grow into gangsterdom. Here it is fully fledged, and portrayed with long talks, minimal action, and most characters barely introduced. It probably has a few too many tangents, and could be trimmed, but it confidently fills up its runtime with scenes so great they almost all feel necessary.

The Irishman is a dignified work that seems a perfect encapsulation of what America's greatest living director can do. He brings worlds of bad men to soul-searching depths. His philosophical touches, shown through a Christian prism, bring historical systems of control to a place of individual human experience. The Irishman may be long and slow, but the path to the end so often is. And this is one long path worth travelling, just to witness a character whose path left his soul crushed ... perhaps.

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