Watch this as soon as you can…
The Irishman is exactly what you would expect from a Scorsese film: a darkly comic tone, amazing performances, an inviting cinematography and a great soundtrack. It is extremely watchable and, despite being three and a half hours long, the time flies past quickly. Inventive editing and good pacing help with this, as with any Scorsese film. Despite being a fantastic film, The Irishman is not Scorsese’s best, even if it does include many of the things that make his film great.
Three and a half hours never flew by so quickly. In particular, the first and final acts are extremely well paced. The film moves with control and purpose, sweeping you in along for the ride. The second act is a bit more boring, and one finds it harder to remain engaged, but this does not ruin the overall experience. It simply means that if Scorsese were forced to trim down The Irishman for a theatrical release, it would likely be some of the scenes in the middle section he would cut down. Yes, the film could have been a bit shorter, but this does not mean the film feels like a three and a half hour drag. If you need to pass the time for four hours, this film will do the trick.
What makes it so watchable is the performances. A lot has been reported about the budget of $150 million and the use of de-ageing technology, but you immediately forget about all that once the film starts. It is barely noticeable. Whilst this may be credited to the effectiveness of the technology, it has more to do with the compelling nature of the three lead performances. Robert De Niro plays Frank Sheeran, a hitman desensitised to murder and crime. He is cold, calm and quiet for much of the film, but the steady growth of regret feels organic and authentic due to this core performance. Pesci, coming out of retirement, offers a great performance too, playing a polite and quiet mob boss, but one with a sinister flicker in his eye. Al Pacino steals the show, though. One has to take a double take when he appears on screen. His performance is so three dimensional it is hard to believe it is a performance at all. All of them, despite capturing the cold darkness of the mob life, also execute the dark humour to perfection too. The performances make this film work as well as it does.
Of course, Scorsese’s direction is superb too. The transitions between scenes and the pacing keep the film feeling as brisk as it does. The cinematography was inviting. There are many memorable shots and pleasing camera movements. A lot of creativity with the camera too, as always, such as when the scene depicts screenshots/photographs of the characters. Like always, the soundtrack is expertly chosen. It enhances every scene and helps build tone, whilst also being pleasing to listen in its own right.
Unfortunately, all of this can be said of any Scorsese film. And many of his previous efforts have done all this to a higher standard, and in less time. Whilst this is a fantastic film in its own right, one many directors can only dream of making, The Irishman is not quite good enough to break the top tier of Martin Scorsese films.