‘The Irishman’ highlight’s director Martin Scorsese’s continued success


Courtesy of IMDB

Robert De Niro (left), Al Pacino (center) and Ray Romano (right) offer a performance only the titans of Hollywood could pull off.

Over the course of his almost fifty-year career, Martin Scorsese has more than earned his status as one of Hollywood’s most consistently amazing directors.. He is a filmmaker who constantly keeps up with the times and ups his game in terms of revolutionizing the platform on a narrative, formal, and technical basis.

This decade has been home to some of Scorsese’s  most uncompromising works, from the heartwarming and whimsical ode to preserving the human soul and cinema in “Hugo,” to the berzerk untamed nature of capitalism in “The Wolf of Wall Street,” to the deeply personal and profound contemplation of spiritual and religious mysteries in “Silence.” All of these are proof that Scorsese has never even come close to slowing down, even well into his 70s, and now it has all culminated in  “The Irishman.”

Based on the 2004 Charles Brandt novel “I Heard You Paint Houses,” “The Irishman” chronicles the life and career of Frank Sheeran, a World War II veteran turned mob hitman who swiftly works his way to the top of the Italian mob, gaining the trust of a lot of important figures, most importantly including that of union leader Jimmy Hoffa.

Scorsese has been trying to bring this story to the big screen ever since the release of the novel. For a multitude of reasons, primarily costly visual effects  and extensive rewrites, the film became trapped in development hell for a little over a decade. But thanks to Netflix and their seemingly bottomless wallet, Scorsese was able to assemble his A-Team of lead actors with Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Al Pacino, and with a titanic budget of a reported $159 million and an intimidating runtime of 209 minutes, we can now all experience a master filmmaker operating at a level rarely seen.

“The Irishman” is so many things all at once. On the surface it works seamlessly as a towering crime epic about legacy and loyalty spanning over half a century with some truly revolutionary work in digital de-aging on its core cast. Underneath that, it works even more poignantly as a culmination of Scorsese’s whole career.

At its conclusion, the film presents itself as the intersection point where all of Scorsese’s most vital themes and filmic influences meet. That of breaking down how one’s life legacy can mirror the ebbs and flows of society at a given time (“The Wolf of Wall Street,” “Raging Bull,” “The Aviator”), dismantling the deep seeded and damaging codes of masculinity (“Taxi Driver,” “The Departed”), and an evocative reckoning with religion and other spiritual forces (“Silence,” “The Last Temptation of Christ,” “Kundun”). To juggle all of these ideas in one film would be a tall order for any filmmaker, but Scorsese makes it appear effortless.

In every way this film is trying to evoke the past, through its rich needle drops, next-level visual effects that make De Niro appear 40 years younger, flashy camerawork and cuts, and stunning production design. However, behind that thick layer of romanticism and glamour is the hauntingly mournful understanding of the inevitability of time and the loneliness of our fate culminating in perhaps the best final shot of the year. There is a real understanding of acceptance and place in this film which makes its high profile release by a streaming company all the more inadvertently poignant.

Across the board, “The Irishman” is a film made up of Hollywood’s biggest and best legends doing their best work to date. The dynamics that this film builds between the holy trinity of De Niro, Pesci, and Pacino is a spectacle greater than anything cinema has to offer at this moment in time and to be brutally honest, Scorsese is the only man who has the ability to bring it to us. It’s not everyday that we get something on this scale from someone who is this good at what they do so when it comes along, it demands every fiber of our attention.