Skip to content

Film Review: The Irishman (2019)

The Irishman (2019) is an epic crime drama directed by Martin Scorsese, with a limited release in cinemas before the official release on Netflix on November 27th. Scorsese has brought back some of his most notable colleagues for this film, including Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci who left retirement for this project alone. The film follows truck driver Frank Sheeran (De Niro) as he becomes a hitman and gets entangled with mobster Russell Buffalo (Pesci), leading him to work for Teamster Jimmy Hoffa (Pacino).

The Irishman (2019) – source: Netflix
The main three cast members are truly incredible in this film, with all of them giving easily their best performances in decades. De Niro is captivating as Frank, giving a performance that is both mysterious and rebellious as well as heartbreaking, especially seeing the impact his character has on his family and those close to him. Pesci is a lot more subtle here than many may expect, but it is a performance that is excellently done and worthy of him coming out of retirement for. The strongest performance, however, belongs to Pacino who easily has the flashiest character of the lot but pulls it off effortlessly. He steals the spotlight in every scene that he is in and it is impossible to look away.
The length may be terrifying to some. Committing over three and a half hours to a single film is a hard task, and this film is crammed full of information and a storyline that spans decades. However, this film never feels dull and not a single minute feels wasted here as the pacing is spot on. It is slow at times, but it needs to be to let the audience catch up on what the film is telling us. This may just be the best-edited film of the year, knowing exactly what it needs to tell the audience and what can be left off-screen.
The main reason that the pacing of this film works so well is because of the story which is truly engaging. The length of the film gives breathing time to not worry about leaving any important information out, which other films sometimes struggle with. This film manages the multiple timelines narrative seamlessly, never leaving the audience confused about what is happening and who anyone is. The story is filled with action, suspense, drama and heavy dialogue and yet there is a great balance between all of those things, with not one thing prioritised over the other.
The Irishman (2019) – source: Netflix
Considering the budget for this film and the fact that it is a Netflix production, people are wondering about the de-aging effects that are in use for the main three leads here. There is obviously a blend of make-up and CGI in use, and I can say that for the most part, I could not even tell them apart. The only scene that I noticed the CGI was in one of the first scenes of the film, in which Frank and Russell meet for the first time. Whether this is because it is the very first time we see a younger portrayal of these characters, the use of lighting for this particular scene or the CGI itself, after this scene it becomes very difficult to spot the use of CGI in the film which is incredible.
It is not simply the story and the acting which stands out in this film, but all of the individual aspects of the film which is excellently done. The tone of this film is well balanced between the dark crime aspect of the story and the surprising amount of humour that is added in to lighten the mood in a film like this. The production value is gorgeous, particularly shooting in the streets of the city. The costumes have even gone beyond expectations, helping recreate the decade that they are in and showcasing a progression both in the story but in the physical time. All of these aspects come together to create something beautiful on screen.
On the first viewing, this film can feel completely overwhelming. It certainly did for me. There is so much information, not only told through dialogue but also through text that appears on-screen and through the actions of the characters. It can be a lot to take in on first viewing, and for me, it may take a few more sittings of the film to truly digest the story and all of the characters and to fully understand every direction choice that Scorsese made. This is a film that, even though it is on Netflix, you cannot be sitting on your phone distracted. You need to give this film full attention, and even then it may take a few attempts to appreciate it.
The Irishman (2019) – source: Netflix
Despite its very long runtime, this is a film I am wanting to watch again immediately. There is no way that a film like this can be fully digested in one singular viewing, and that is the beauty of films such as these. I would not usually say that this is my particular genre of choice when I watch a film, but I deeply appreciate the care that went into this film and I adored entering this world that Scorsese places us in. With another viewing or two, this should be able to earn a five-star rating from me, but it is a fantastic film nonetheless.

Have you been lucky enough to check out The Irishman in cinemas, or are you having to wait until it is released on Netflix? Let me know in the comments section and let’s have a discussion.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: