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Review: The Irishman

A masterful meditation on a life lived and the costs paid.

They say hindsight is 20/20 vision, but they never talk about the fact that by then it’s probably too late.

Frank Sheeran sits in a nursing home bustling with conversation and connection, yet he’s alone in reflection. This is all set up with a shot that is arguably reflection for Scorsese himself, a long track through the nursing home leading us into our narrative. It’s a subtle connection that says so much, which stands as a testament to the film – a meditation on a life lived and the costs paid.

With a roster of talent this large, subtlety is the last thing you’d expect, but at three hours and a half, The Irishman isn’t afraid of a slow boil. Operating as the equivalent to a cinematic swiss army knife, Scorsese and his team slowly reel in the audience allowing them to settle in and experience a life lived. Like a giant game of connect the dots that ends long after the credits roll, the film employs freeze frames, composition, sound, a startling sense of reality, and so much more to lay philosophical grounds. 

There isn’t necessarily a plot here, the first hour meanders in ways that might lose some, but there is a hook, and that’s Jimmy Hoffa.  Al Pacino takes the role of Hoffa by the horns and infuses it with an energy that’s signature to himself. Prepare yourself for the memes, because they’re coming. His performance is simply magnetic, and for better or worse he takes over every scene he’s in. The scenes between Hoffa and Provenzano need a stand alone comment, as they are two storms in one room. Pacino and Stephen Graham are a sight, two incredible actors going head to head in some of the best cinema of the year.

Then there is the other side of the same coin – a magnetic performance, but in a quieter sense. DeNiro and Pesci as Frank Sheeran and Russell Bufalino bring some of their greatest work to the screen while staying true to the film’s subtle nature. It’s big in the smallest ways, and it renders believable performances filled with nuance and intrigue. It’s truly Oscar worthy stuff. DeNiro specifically holds a pain in eyes that’s remarkable. In it’s own way it builds heavily on the narrative presented which is fantastic acting. A deaging technology is employed to make DeNiro and Pesci look much younger throughout the film, which has varying success. It never quite feels believable in the first hour however, as DeNiro still moves like an older man even though he looks like he’s supposed to be in his late thirties. It’s jarring to say the least, but it never makes you skip a beat. The film has done far too good of a job of bringing you in already.

There is so much to say, but at the end of the day it’s an undeniable fact, The Irishman is easily one of the year’s best. Captured beautifully through the eyes of a master filmmaker and his team, the film stands as a remarkable contribution to a rather lackluster year of film. It has it’s minor bumps and questionable moments of sound design/ADR, but does that minor technical stuff really hurt something of this scale. No, not at all.

Andrew Hamilton

Andrew Hamilton is a Toronto based filmmaker and creative mad man. Legend has it that he spent most of his childhood locked away in a cell beta testing Netflix.