2019 Film Reviews – 61: The Irishman [dir. Martin Scorsese; 2019]

Several critics have declared The Irishman to be Martin Scorsese’s finest film of the last decade, and whilst I agree that it is superb, I think I’d qualify the praise slightly by saying that it’s probably his most fan-pleasing film of recent years. This epic – but never baggy – story of a low-grade criminal getting caught up with the mob and possibly playing a key role in Jimmy Hoffa’s disappearance doesn’t delve into new territories or experiment with form in the ways that, say, the underrated Bringing Out The Dead, Silence or Hugo did. It is firmly in the land of the much-loved Goodfellas – full of Mediterranean egos, toxic testosterone, confrontational dialogue, a note-perfect soundtrack and confident tracking shots – which must at least partly explain the level of adoration it has received. However, what makes it special – and, at times, unexpectedly moving – is that it is a film by an old man about old men. As the narrative reaches its inevitable conclusion, the sense of looking back and trying to find meaning in a lifetime of violence and suffering becomes almost palpable and lifts this far above a run-of-the-mill gangster flick. After the bullets have gone silent, all that remains is a crisis of the soul. And it is to Scorsese’s credit that he doesn’t shy away from the anguished – but, of course, always unspoken – realities of this pain. A tremendous, sincere piece of work, well worth trying to catch on the biggest screen you can find. Final thought on the performances: Pesci and De Niro are wondrous, Pacino does the best Pacino he’s done for years, but it’s the near-wordless Anna Paquin who is arguably the movie’s most haunting presence. And, in many ways, its wounded heart.


The Irishman Martin Scorsese review Dariush Alavi

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