Director: Martin Scorsese
Writers: Steven Zaillian (screenplay), Charles Brandt (book)
Stars: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci
It’s easy to look at The Irishman as simply another mafia film, and if that’s your outlook I certainly don’t fault you for being unable to separate the creatives from their previous work. However, the heart of The Irishman is far more rich and layered than previously recounted stories would lead you to believe. As with any young life, the first act of The Irishman does mislead you to believe the film will take a familiar approach. A man gets swept up in the mob. He’s violent, there’s some zaniness, he’s got an accent, these are the things you likely expected. What comes unexpected and indeed what keeps me coming back to The Irishman so feverishly is the third act where the film takes on entirely new meaning.
Existential dread and the consequences of our actions, the things that pull us in diametrically opposed directions and the brutality of our true nature that repels all forces of sincerity. These are the things that strike true in this ‘typical mob film’. Upon examining the deeper questions, we’re able to see the tragic truth behind the more obvious observations. Is his daughter’s lack of presence in the film due to an oversight on the creative vision, or is it a deliberate choice to demonstrate what truly matters to our protagonist? And is it in fact showing us in retrospect that his selective memory is in itself a story? The power of what Scorsese shows is personal and hauntingly effective, but even more impressive is what he doesn’t show. And how effortlessly even something as simple as the title cards are able to convey such a timeless message of inevitable mortality brings chills to my spine.
The performances are each excellent. Pacino hogging the spotlight with rich borderline campy enthusiasm, Pesci reflecting a completely opposing force of subtlety as a reaction to that. And of course DeNiro in one of his most emotionally vulnerable roles to date. With a 3 and a half hour runtime, does it all fit neatly under the thematic umbrella? No. Watermelons and quirky casket dealings can’t all feel like a contemplative journey. But The Irishman is a remarkably reflective experience that people should think about more. 9.5/10