The Irishman

The Irishman ★★★★½

The Irishman is unfinished business, last orders at the bar for all involved, an autumnal epic reflecting on the different passages through life that we take and the inevitable fate that awaits us all, but for some—call it the lucky, or unlucky ones, there's time enough before this to reflect on the decades gone by and the choices made, where the only thing left to reckon with is oneself.

Returning to the so called gangster genre for which he is best known, Martin Scorsese proffers his most definitive, all encompassing statement yet on this most unglamorous of lifestyle choices, one that across Frank Sheeran's entire lifetime modulates only between the prosaic and the downright doleful, with nothing much in the way of joy or satisfaction. It's a life defined by passivity and absence, reflected by Frank's constant subservience to others and the near total lack of family, romance or female characters, a void personified best by the almost symbolically minimal daughter role, which entails little more than a cameo by Anna Paquin but is a performance that is no less pivotal and crucial to the devastating crux of this sprawling, deep focus character study.

For all its magnificent 209 minutes, The Irishman never stalls, never falters or overstays its welcome, such is the power and command of Scorsese's craft, the mastery of his longtime editor Thelma Schoonmaker, the sublime dialogue of the script and the astronomical talent of the star-studded ensemble cast—De Niro, Pacino, Pesci, Keitel, actors that dominated and defined a generation of American cinema and continue to prove beyond any doubt that they're nothing less than the best in the business, capiche? A big caveat for me going in was the enormous reliance on de-aging CGI technology and whilst it is a little jarring at first, it soon becomes utterly seamless, any qualms waylaid entirely—it's really quite incredible from a technical standpoint. That said, it's also a huge shame that not even one of the greatest, most respected filmmakers alive today can get a film financed by a major studio, so props to Netflix for making this happen, unprofitable behemoth that it probably is.

For a film so fixated on death and mortality, the comedic flourishes—of which there are surprisingly many, might make you think otherwise, at least until the sobering denouement is delivered, one just as gut-punch effective as the closing shot of Scorsese's previous film Silence. The Irishman is everything we expected it to be with this once in a lifetime coming together of artists—superlative, richly detailed and deeply rewarding swansong cinema of the highest order.

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