The Irishman

The Irishman ★★★★★

A short essay on The Irishman in which I try to convince you to watch a 3.5-hour movie about mortality…

“Epic” is an overused term in describing some movies (also, everything else). Sure, a movie can be BIG and LOUD, but what makes it “epic” is in the culmination of small, pivotal moments that build to themes on a grand scale. The Irishman is epic. None of the moments in its very extended runtime are wasted. What seems tedious at first becomes profound later on once these weary and sin-soaked gangsters are forced to reckon with the carnage they’ve left in their wake.

In a way, Martin Scorsese (age 77) is reckoning with his own legacy. His past gangster epics (e.g., Goodfellas, Raging Bull) were violent, brash, and visceral. The Irishman is meditative and darkly introspective. There are long car rides, confessions, a patient camera that lingers on decay, whether in the crumbling of civil institutions or the crags and valleys of Robert de Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci’s iconic faces.

The Irishman is available on Netflix, so I understand the urge to break your viewing up to make that enormous runtime more palatable. I implore you not to. The experience of taking in this sprawling, visual lyrical poem all at once is arresting and, though long, never feels slow. Don’t worry, there are spurts of bloody violence that burst onto the screen, but it’s the riveting dialogue, composed by a master of his craft, that holds you in its grip until a haunting final shot that brings it all into chilling perspective.

Bonus points if you watch it with your dad.