The Irishman

The Irishman ★★★★

Martin Scorsese is well-known for being the master of gangster cinema; Goodfellas, Casino, you name it. However, what modern Scorsese brings into the mix is his signature film genre told from a much older, more mature perspective. It's a perfect blend of thoughtful patience and sudden jumps from Frank Sheeran's unreliable memory. While The Irishman delivers on the traits Scorsese's gangster films are known for, it also aims to explore the aftermath of them. It delves into aging and eventual death with no punches held. While this film is long and best experienced in one sitting, it doesn't waste time. Every scene and their length contributes to the mood, narrative, or thematic elements.

Martin Scorsese films are always known for his exceptional scripts; even his lesser output are entries I could never consider poorly-written. However, The Irishman is the best one in a long time, certainly one of Steven Zaillian's best as well. It may be a throwback to the gangster films of old, but also a nostalgic trip in remembrance of them. What The Irishman changes in its delivery is subtlety over showmanship. It keeps narration to a minimum, and always works in its connection with aging. The dialogue is still phenomenal, even squeezing out some comedic moments like Scorsese films are known for, but it doesn't distract from the melancholic tone.

Of course, The Irishman is known for its de-aging effects, and they all look seamless. I'm sure mistakes are there if I go frame by frame, but that doesn't matter in terms of the experience. It never feels like a visual effect, and the animators deserve props for that. However, they couldn't get the seamlessness by themselves, for the performances push it to new levels. The massive cast lacks any weak links, but the main three leads shine the brightest. Martin Scorsese's trademark actors haven't had the best roles as of late, Joe Pesci, in particular, coming out of retirement for this role, so it's even better seeing them all back at their prime. Their physical performances are the highlight, their movements becoming shaky and taxing as the story progresses.

Almost all of the technical elements come together beautifully, and they showcase the auteurism Martin Scorsese has reached from his decades-long filmography. The cinematography is a change of pace from his usually flashy style, preferring the intimate but visually appealing method. Robbie Robertson returns to score the film, and the compositions fit the scenes very well. The only issue I had was the bizarre editing; the editing usually enhances Scorsese's work, but The Irishman's bleak presentation mixed with the usual editing style didn't sit well for me. The actual quality of the editing itself is phenomenal as usual, but my personal preferences do conflict here. Maybe this will change on a rewatch, who knows.

Whichever way I perceive The Irishman in the future, it's an excellent film that showcases the artistry veteran filmmakers possess. In many ways, it feels like a swan song to Martin Scorsese's career, or at the very least, the Scorsese/De Niro era. From its thematic elements to the sheer effort everyone put in, it'd be a fitting conclusion to their body of work. It has the trademarks of but with an older and more depressive look on it all, in many ways a veteran filmmaker's lookback to past work. It's all wrapped up in a haunting final shot to cap off Martin Scorsese's longest film, and one of his most unforgettable. The last hour is the most emotionally resonate, but the entire experience is an impactful journey. It may be daunting for viewers not used to long runtimes, but it's a rewarding experience that I highly recommend.

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