"The Irishman" is Old Cinema in the New Age
With an extensive runtime of nearly three and a half hours,
one of the most prevalent questions to ask before watching Netflix’s
“The Irishman” is if this is really worth it?
Martin Scorsese has been in the spotlight recently with his
newest film landing on the streaming service after a brief limited
theatrical release and with his recent comments about the current
film climate, specifically on the recent plethora of Marvel
In an interview with Empire Magazine, Scorsese was asked
for his thoughts on “Avengers: Endgame.”
“I don’t see them. I tried, you know? But that’s not cinema.
Honestly, the closest I can think of them, as well made as they
are, with actors doing the best they can under the circumstances,
is theme parks. Scorsese said. “It isn’t cinema of human beings
trying to convey emotional psychological experiences to another
The comment garnered a ton of controversy and it leaves “The
Irishman” as a testament on whether or not Scorsese’s words are
“The Irishman” follows the historical events of Frank Sheeran
(Robert De Niro) who descends on a downward spiral of crime
and murder when he becomes a hitman for Russell Bufalino (Joe
Pesci) and his crime family, working with Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino)
The film reunites Scorsese with De Niro and Pesci and it also
marks the first collaboration between Scorsese and Pacino. With
powerhouse actors such as these goodfellas, you would expect
nothing more than absolutely flawless performances.
Thankfully, that is the case with this film.
Scorsese’s directing is just as impactful as today as it was
in the 1970s. Every performance from the main three actors to
even the smallest performances are directed masterfully.
De Niro’s performance as Sheeran illustrates a multitude of
emotions from anger, sadness, regret and happiness. The acting
is amplified further by the de-aging visual effects on De Niro
which are used to tell Sheeran’s whole life story.
While the visual effects are effectively done, they are noticeable,
especially during the film’s flashback to Sheeran’s early
life. However, because the performances are so well done and
the dialogue is so engaging you end up not necessarily forgetting
what you are seeing is a visual effect, but instead not allowing it
to ruin the immersion.
Pesci’s performance is quite different to what it was in “Goodfellas.”
Instead of Pesci giving a hot-headed and loud-mouthed
performance, we are treated to acting that is still intimidating, but in a more subtle and
While Pesci’s performance is more reserved, Pacino’s performance is as bombastic as
ever. Pacino brings so much life to the real life man that is Hoffa that you almost expect
that the film will focus on him. At the end of the day it is still De Niro’s Sheeran that is the
main focus and what the film is ultimately about.
This does not devalue the rest of the excellent cast. Ray Ramano brings so much humor
to Bill Bufalino, and Harvey Keitel still demonstrates well-executed acting, even if he is
not featured in the film as often. One performance that was unique and could present differing opinions is Anna Paquin as Peggy Sheeran.
Paquin’s performance is different from the whole cast as it is even more reserved with
very few lines. However, the film presents a valid reason for this performance that it does
not detract from the film’s quality at all.
The cinematography done by Rodrigo Prieto is not as colorful as Scorsese’s “The Wolf
of Wall Street,” but it’s a good thing. “The Irishman” is extremely different, encompassing
grays and shadows as opposed to the excessive use of colors.
If anyone is concerned with the extensive runtime, they won’t have to fear, because
the film is packed to the brim with montages that are accompanied with classical licensed
songs. The film does begin to feel its length during the third act.
Perhaps the film could have benefitted by taking the route that Quentin Tarantino did
for the extended version of “The Hateful Eight.” The extended version was also released
on Netflix; however, the film was broken down into four episodes. If the audience wishes
to watch the entire film, they can, but there is also the other option of watching the episodes
in spades. That way the audience is not necessarily bored, but they can put a bookmark on
a specific part to take a small break before jumping right back into the story.
Overall, the runtime may scare away potential viewers, and this film may not please all
audiences like “Goodfellas” or “The Wolf of Wall Street.” But this is a comfortable recommendation to any Scorsese fans, cinema lovers, or people who are aware of the historical aspects that the film covers.
As for the comments on whether or not Marvel movies are cinema, there is no ultimate
right answer, but what is certain is that Scorsese is still important to films now as he was
when just started.