The Irishman: Film Review

I really wanted to watch Martin Scorsese‘s gangster epic in a cinema because I feared I wouldn’t be able to watch the three-and-a-half-hour film at home without interruptions. I never managed to get to the cinema so had to do make do with a Netflix viewing – but I needn’t have worried. The Irishman is so gripping that I watched it non-stop from start to finish and didn’t feel the need to check my phone at all.

The film follows the life of Frank ‘The Irishman’ Sheeran (Robert De Niro), from how he went from being a delivery truck driver to a hitman for the Bufalino crime family – run by Russell (Joe Pesci) – and the right-hand man for union boss Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino), who mysteriously disappeared in 1975.

The runtime is going to put a lot of people off this one and I can understand. Three and a half hours is a significant time investment, but I’m here to assure you that the film is worth it and it pulls you in pretty early on. I was so involved in the story that I forgot about the time and rarely checked how much longer there was to go. It also doesn’t feel as long as it is, which says a lot.

The film is a slow burn but your patience is rewarded many times throughout. The screenplay by Steven Zaillian is top-notch and needs to receive all the adapted awards (original screenplay has to be Noah Baumbach for Marriage Story, hands down). I’m not going to lie, I did struggle at times to follow what was going on because there are so many characters to keep track of. For that reason I would recommend watching it in one sitting, you won’t remember all the details otherwise. I also think you won’t be as captivated if you come out of the story and go back in.

Everyone is at the top of their game too – the lead three performances are just incredible. De Niro hasn’t been this good in years, Pesci has been retired for ages but you would never know it, and Pacino was loud and brash but equally brilliant. There is also an amazing supporting cast including Stephen Graham, Ray Romano, Anna Paquin and Bobby Cannavale.

A lot has been said about the de-ageing technology used to portray the actors when they are much younger. It is jarring when you initially see them but I accepted it pretty quickly and it wasn’t distracting. There are a couple of exceptions – one flashback to Frank’s army days didn’t feel realistic at all and I couldn’t ever accept De Niro’s crystal blues eyes – they’re usually brown.

I was blown away by The Irishman. What an ambitious, epic, incredible piece of storytelling. Everyone brings their A-game to tell an engrossing story. Please don’t let the runtime put you off. This deserves checking out – in one go, as Scorsese intended it.

Streaming on Netflix now 

Rating: 5/5

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