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Jack Bottomley
Media Correspondent
8:00 AM 4th January 2020

Review: The Irishman

If ever there was a Mount Rushmore assembled for film directing, Martin Scorsese would have to be at the forefront of that conversation.

The oscar winning filmmaker, responsible for landmark movies like Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, under appreciated master works like The King of Comedy and modern classics like The Departed and The Wolf of Wall Street, has proved time and time again that the passing years have - like a fine wine - only ripened his directorial talents and Scorsese is every bit the powerful and immaculate filmmaker now that he was decades ago.

And with his latest motion picture, in the Netflix-backed The Irishman, Scorsese has once more displayed his timeless talent in a very special movie treat.

Opening with Robert De Niro’s elderly WWII veteran Frank Sheeran recounting his experiences from an old folks home, The Irishman is based on Charles Brandt’s 2004 book “I Heard You Paint Houses” and tells the story of Frank’s time in the mafia, with particular focus on those around him over the years (from friends and family to bosses and acquaintances) and how his actions affected the course of American history and more importantly his own life and those who are a part of it.

While online crowds are continuing their obsessive debating of the “tiff” between Scorsese and Marvel Studios over what qualifies as “real cinema”, Scorsese’s latest searing piece of cinema may have found its home (after years of developmental struggle) on a streaming service giant but is something that you really should try and see on the big screen if you can.

This is a magnificent mob picture from a master craftsman, which feels like an ode to the director’s (and his actors) past work, as well as a resounding final hurrah and - perhaps even - funeral for a golden era that we will never see the likes of ever again.

The sprawling story takes its time settling you in and it has that luxury because once you are submerged into its very real world, you are in absolute awe.

Modern - and well used - de-aging technology combine with film legends, as turbulent US political history is stirred in and it results in an epic film imbued with soul, human complexity and dazzling performances, which only gets better and better as it progresses across its mighty 3 and 1/2 hour running length.

Whether its the stunningly recreated settings, its chosen historical snippets or the hand selected soundtrack, Scorsese’s film is a mature work from a veteran filmmaker fully at one with his craft. The Irishman is really a story about how loyalty can be tested by time and our actions and one that questions the worth of our lifelong sacrifices and it is almost self reflexive of Scorsese’s most famed movie work and collaborations.

His usual suspects re-gather for this film and it really does feel like a project riddled with finality, as these guys unite what seems like one more time for the kind of genre film they built their respective careers on but deliver something even more heartfelt, soulful and timely than expected.

Time plays a huge part in this movie and by the end of it, we are forced to accept the harsh realities of time itself, and to acknowledge it’s all consuming power over us and how decades may pass but the consequences of our memories and pasts are rarely diminished. Even if everyone else - and sometimes even we ourselves - have forgotten.

Robert De Niro (compiled with his excellent supporting turn in Todd Phillips’ masterpiece Joker) caps off his 2019 resurgence with a compelling and deep lead performance that (just as the movie spans the decades) spans a range of emotions.

While Al Pacino also enjoys a resurgent turn as real life labour union leader Jimmy Hoffa in a charismatic, funny and fiery performance. And a marvellous Joe Pesci returns from retirement for a triumphant turn as crime boss Russell Bufalino, to round out this iconic thrilling trio headlining act.

However, the film is full of interesting and distinctive performances all round, from Stephen Graham’s disruptive turn as Anthony “Tony Pro” Provenzano to Ray Romano’s more collected performance as Bill Bufalino.

Though, I personally - in spite of the controversy that has resulted from her limited dialogue in the film - found X-Men’s Anna Paquin to be the standout of the supporting players as Frank’s daughter Peggy Sheeran (a role also played by Lucy Gallina, who portrays Peggy in her younger years), as she makes the biggest impact emotionally on the story and on the central character and in saying very little often says a whole lot.

The hype is entirely justified.The Irishman is a film that is both a celebration and a commemoration of an era long since passed but which, like its director, remains as incredible now as it was then.

15
Director: Martin Scorsese
Starring: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci
Release Date: Out Now