Step aside, Avengers! Martin Scorsese and his cinematic stable of stars are back! While Scorsese may be equivalent to Nick Fury as the mastermind assembling the crew, Robert De Niro is his Iron Man, Al Pacino is his Captain America and Joe Pesci is his Incredible Hulk. The most anticipated film of the year has finally hit theaters (as well as big-screen home flatscreens), and The Irishman may be even bigger and better than the hype that preceded it.
Silence was the last film Martin Scorsese directed back in 2016. It had some hype, but ultimately was disappointing to most critics and became a dud when awards season came around. However, the legendary director shot to kill with The Irishman, a film centered around a former mafia hitman telling the audience his stories from yesteryear about his involvements in everything, from his relationship with Jimmy Hoffa to his broken relationship with his own children.
Robert De Niro portrays Frank Sheeran, a real-life South Philadelphian who, in the 1960s, became one the most dangerous figures in the Philly mob. In the process, he takes the audience on a journey through his experiences with Russell Bufalino (played by Joe Pesci), and well known historical figures like Philly mob boss, Angelo Bruno (played by Harvey Keitel), and Teamsters President, Jimmy Hoffa (played by Al Pacino). The film takes place over the span of several decades, but beginning and ending with an older, lonely Sheeran sharing his story to us while in an assisted living facility.
Like many fellow Philadelphians, I grew up hearing about the local mob tales that are depicted in this film. Scorsese tells those same stories to outsiders in such a unique and refreshing way by flashing descriptions of several characters’ fates that we aren’t privy to seeing on the screen throughout the film, which gives further substance to characters who may have been minor in this particular story, were important, vital figures to the overall organized crime landscape during the era.
Of course, that’s just one special part to this amazing piece of filmmaking. In addition, special CGI was used to show both De Niro and Pacino as younger versions of Sheeran and Hoffa, respectively. Some filmmakers have recently tried this, but I believe it was truly mastered here in this film. The technological advancement in film making appeared seamlessly on-screen without the audience wanting, or even needing to give it a critical glance.
You would be hard-pressed to find a better ensemble cast in a film than the one comprised for The Irishman. Aside from the aforementioned trio of De Niro, Pacino and Pesci, the film also features a who’s who of exceptional actors, including Harvey Keitel, Anna Paquin, Bobby Cannavale, and Ray Romano (and a cool cameo from Action Bronson as a casket salesman). Scorsese is one of those directors who love using the same actors in all of his projects, so you definitely see some really good, lesser known actors in various roles throughout the film as well. He also is a director who brings the best out of all of his actors. In The Irishman, Scorsese brought out their greatness.
I think De Niro is a lock to get an Oscar nomination for his role. I also think, Pacino is a lock for a supporting actor nomination. Although the supporting actor category could be a loaded one this year, don’t be surprised to see Joe Pesci also earn a nomination as well. It’s not very common to see two actors from the same film get nominated for Best Supporting Actor, but The Irishman isn’t your typical film. Both would not only be deserving of nominations, but also could very well take home the award.
The Irishman screenplay was written by Steven Zaillian. Zaillian may not be a household name by any stretch of the imagination, but he very well could be the best screenwriter of our generation. Aside from writing an incredible script for this movie, he also is credited with writing other masterpieces such as Awakenings, Schindler’s List, Gangs of New York and Moneyball, all of which earned him Best Screenplay Oscar nominations (won for Schindler’s List), and were all nominated for Best Picture. Zaillian will surely earn another Oscar nomination for his work here, and should be the early odds-on favorite for his second victory.
Visually appealing cinematography, a historically accurate, perfectly written script, and flawless portrayals of intriguing characters all make The Irishman a serious contender for the best picture of the year. While the running time of the film may be hard to bear for some (3 hours and 29 minutes, to be exact), you easily find yourself fully enthralled within the dark underworld of 1960s organized crime. In fact, I would argue the last 40 minutes of the film may be where the Oscar gold lies. Having this violent mobster story culminate with the sad personal story of one of its last living members left behind is pure genius.
With all that being said, it’s hard to find a negative trait in The Irishman. It is already the greatest movie in Netflix’s short history, and although it surely will become the next Scorsese mob world classic like Goodfellas and Casino have before it, The Irishman is his big score.
MATTER RATING: 10/10
OSCAR SCALE: 10/10 (Best Picture, Actor, Supporting Actor, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Original Score, Film Editing, Visual Effects)
BY: CHRIS GUEST