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Review: Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishmann” is, not surprisingly, a masterpiece

Los Angeles, USA - May 31, 2013: This is the Hollywood Walk Of Fame Star for film director Martin Scorsese.

I’ll just say it right away – it is not always this word is used correctly about movies, but rarely a movie that deserves it more – Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman is a masterpiece. The 3.5 hour film about the life of Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran is a monster of a film, a powerful tale about looking back on ones life.

But before we pay tribute to the film and talk about its importance to Scorsese and film itself…

Sitting in a retirement home, Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) tells us about his life as a hitman for the mob. He has crossed paths with some of the most important people in organized crime and organized labor in America, from accidentally selling meat to a local gangster to ending up as a bodyguard for the iconic union leader Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino). This movie takes us through essential events in America in the 60s and 70s, and is equally the story of a time in history as the story of a life.

Let’s start from the beginning. Despite being a masterpiece, the film’s first hour is somewhat confusing. It is simply because this is a very long film that will tell a long, self-contained and serious story. Thus, there are many relationships and settings the audience needs to be familiar with, and – most importantly – digitally de-aged actors to get used to.

Since the production of The Irishman was announced a couple of years ago, there has been a lot of opinions about Scorsese’s decision to digitally de-age Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci and Harvey Keitel. This seems to be one of the reasons for the movie’s budget of a whopping $ 160 million. When faced with the de-aged De Niro during the first 20 minutes of the film, it is easy to wonder if you’ll ever get used to it. The skin is strangely soft, the eyes unnaturally bright and the facial expressions excessive. At the same time, one cannot de-age a body; Although De Niro looks like he is 40, he still moves like a 70 year old.

However, about an hour into the film, when Al Pacino shows up in the role of Jimmy Hoffa, the setting and CGI effects fall into place. The animated faces have blended in with the rest of the film’s aesthetic, with cigar smoke, double-breasted jackets and dark bars. And most importantly – Al Pacino, Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci’s indisputable talent and presence eclipse any exaggerated CGI effect.

Let’s forget for a moment that Joe Pesci has been in Snickers commercials, Robert De Niro made three Meet The Fockers-films, and Al Pacino was in Gigil with 6% on Rotten Tomatoes. The three are among the most precious actors we have. Al Pacino, Scarface himself, does his very first role for Scorsese (!), and appropriately takes on the role with the most energy, both serious and sometimes unpretentious. Pesci had retired from acting, but Scorsese persuaded him to take on the role of Russel Buffalino, which he delivers with unmistakable charm and focus. De Niro is meditative and discreet, but monumental.

In the final hour of the film, De Niro gets to expose the dark depths of his amoral character, revealing the odd qualities of a man forced to betray his loved ones. This gives The Irishman not only serious but also a bleak quality. This soul-searching shows that Scorsese and the three main roles also reflect on their cinematic past.

It is not only Frank Sheeran who looks back on his life in The Irishman. De Niro, Pacino and Pesci are all in their late 70s, in the winter of their lives, and have 220 film and TV roles behind their backs. They all have their own choices and careers to look back on, a self-awareness that is evident in the film. Even 76-year-old Scorsese looks back. He looks back on 50 years of making films about masculinity, power and pain.

If you compare The Irishman with Scorsese’s other mob masterpiece, Goodfellas, Scorsese now focuses on the worst truth of them all, more wicked than greed and power; the undeniable truth of getting older. Thus, there is something gloomier, more serious and meditative about this movie than Goodfellas. While the former film is about the top, the lavishness and luxury of the mob existence, The Irishman is about the seriousness and the end result.

One of the most famous scenes from Goodfellas, and in film history, is known as The Copa Shot. The scene follows young promising gangster Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) and a beautiful date in a continuous take from his car, past the queue and into the glamorous nightclub The Copacabana where the champagne is flowing, 20 dollar bills are used for tips, and rich, happy men in suits send each other expensive bottles and respect. Scorsese uses the same technique in the opening of The Irishman, but the continuous shot takes the audience into an average American retirement home, where Frank Sheeran sits in the living room, like a completely anonymous pensioner surrounded by other equally anonymous pensioners. Where Goodfellas shows amoral men in good old days, The Irishman shows amoral men in their old days.

Still, you don’t have to be familiar with Scorsese’s techniques, themes and cinematography to appreciate The Irishman. All you need to know is wrapped up in the film’s 3.5 hours, giving the audience an unsentimental experience of life’s seriousness, and America at its best – ambitious and hopeful, and at its worst – greedy, violent and corrupt.

Scorsese has had extensive media coverage recently for another reason than The Irishman. He has quite controversially said that Avengers, the world’s most profitable movies, is not cinema but an amusement park. We can save that discussion for another time, but although the content of Avengers and The Irishman exists on two separate sides of the cinematic spectrum, the packaging is not so different. Scorsese has cast some of the world’s greatest and most talented actors in an epic tale of over three hours with plenty of revolutionary CGI effects. This movie is an event, something you look forward to experience and talk about in retrospect. That’s what people need in order to buy movie tickets in 2019.

However, the film will be released on Netlifx on November 26. It does have an episodic narrative that allows it to be watched over two or three nights, but Scorsese has admitted that the reason The Irishman is on Netflix is ​​because they were the only ones to give him $ 160 million to make it, and not because the streaming service is the best platform to watch it.

The Irishman is, and should be, a cinematic experience – just like the Avengers.

Buy tickets if you can. But remember to go to the bathroom before entering the cinema.



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