The Irishman

The Irishman ★★★★½

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

There is a lot that can be said about Marty Scorsese's The Irishman. One reason for the wealth of conversation topics is the runtime. At just over 3.5 hours, there is a lot of subject matter to cover. There are the talking points about de-aging tech and how effective it is or is not. Another is the Scorsese gangster oeuvre, and where this film fits in. There is the "controversy" about how the female characters are back-seated (literally in some scenes) and especially Anna Paquin's character. There is the Pacino / DeNiro angle, there is the DeNiro / Scoresse angle, and the getting the gang back together angle.

But instead, the part that interested me the most, is how a 77 year old man can still be so formally creative and artistically challenging. This is a movie that a 30 year would make, and totally screw up the elements that make this film so special. For the past 30 years we have all talked about how in Goodfellas, when Henry Hill starts taking way too much cocaine, and his life starts spinning out of control, the editing of the movie picks up too. The shots are shorter, and the cuts come quicker. This of course reflects and heightens Henry's trajectory in the film.

This movie does the opposite. For one, the move jumps all over the place in the timeline. There is a through line, but it is bookended by the older Frank, narrating the story to the audience. This narration becomes the bulk of the film, and like an old man telling a story, it rambles around a little. He gives you details you don't really need, skips over some stuff that could be construed as important, and it isn't always the more linear narrative.

The pace of the film slows WAY down in the last hour. Frank (DeNiro) has to kill Jimmy Hoffa, who has become a dear friend and mentor to him. But the Mob is calling the shots. Marty wants us to understand and fell the weight and burden of what Frank is going through. Then we have to live with the consequences. We have to feel the slow and inevitable passage of time. We have to experience his death march. We have to sit with him, as he sits with the guilt of what he has done.

There are not many filmmakers willing, able, or capable of making a slow movie like this. This is Scorsese's Satantango.

Performance review: They are all great. Pacino shines as Jimmy Hoffa. I can't say if his performance is anything like the man himself, I don't believe I ever heard Hoffa speak. But Pacino is manic in a controlled sort of way. Deniro is a powerhouse in the film. He is the rare actor that can make a reserved performance dynamic in its stillness. His pain visible in his eyes when he can't express it with his words. Joe Pesci is maybe the highlight of the film. Totally in control of his physicality, and his persona. He is just as menacing as he was in Goodfellas, but in a stoic and domineering manner, instead of through psychotic mania. And all the supporting cast fits in well, does their job, and gets out of the way of the big stupid men, measuring their dicks, to absolutely no end. They all end up in the grave regardless of how much they have, or how many people they have killed. Time is a bitch.

I'll comment quickly on the de-aging, and say that I never even noticed it. To me Frank only had three ages: 1) Very young in the war, which was very brief. 2) Very old in prison and in the home (which I assume was mostly done through makeup). 3) The entire rest of the movie, which I think was supposed to be split into various sections, but DeNiro's hulking presence makes for a man of a certain age between 35 and 70.

As for the female characters, I think there are two things going on here. Specifically with the Anna Paquin character. She plays one of Frank's daughters, that is repulsed and frightened by Frank, his friends, and what they do for a living. She doesn't speak in the film, out of a protest. She has decided not to verbalize with him, because that is where she has power over him. I agree that silencing a woman in a film is perhaps not the greatest way to get your point across, but I find it tolerable here. As for the other women, like I said earlier, this is a movie about the ignorance, arrogance, stubbornness, foolishness, and deception of men and their brotherhood. That may sound like a copout, but if too many female voices were heard, or for too long, I think the film's thesis would be diminished. Again, there totally may be a better way for Marty to get his point across that allows female voices in his film? But at least this is intentional and to a means. This isn't accidental or unintentional, like so many other blockbusters.

Lastly, and I sort of commented on this earlier, but the 3.5+ hour runtime is totally felt, but not in a bad way. Like I said, the last hour is supposed to feel almost interminable. But beyond that, this is a very watchable movie. I did have to watch this in two settings, with minor interruptions throughout (pets, kid, etc.). I don't want to compare this to binge watching a TV show, but the time passes as if that is what I was doing. I was totally mesmerized, but it is an easy watch, and I think very re-watchable.

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