"The Irishman" is Old Cinema in the New Age

Image of Netflix's "The Irishman" courtesy of IMDb

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

human being.”

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

quiet way.

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.

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