The Irishman – Martin Scorsese

the irishman movie review

The internet was flooded with rave reviews after The Irishman was released on Netflix on November 15th, 2019 after a short stint in very limited theatres around the world. There was so much anticipation built up around Martin Scorsese‘s new epic that a whopping 26 million Netflix accounts watched The Irishman within the first week of its release. It had so much praise coming from respected critics – and the nominations from international festivals and awards kept pouring in – that it was a tough one to ignore, even for people who don’t consider themselves Scorsese fans.

The Irishman is a Scorsese film through and through. All the elements that make his films great are present, including Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci (GoodfellasCasinoRaging BullOnce Upon a Time in America) and a runtime of over 2 hours and 30 mins (The DepartedThe AviatorGangs of New YorkThe Wolf of Wall Street). Yes, The Irishman is long. Yes, it’s one-minute shy of 3 hours and 30 mins. Why that is the main discussion point when people bring up negative aspects of this movie is honestly baffling. Martin Scorsese makes long movies; this should be no surprise to anyone. Is every minute of this movie necessary? Absolutely. That’s all that should really matter in the end.

Martin Scorsese’s own words are the best ones to describe what the film is really about:

“…It’s certainly more about looking back, a retrospective, so to speak, of man’s life, and the choices that he’s had to make.”

The film flips back and forth between an aging Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran (Robert De Niro), a war veteran and former hitman for the mob, and his younger self (Robert De Niro + excessive CGI)– taking us from the 50s to the late 70s. Present day Sheeran is reflective and matter-of-fact about his past. He was introduced to the mob through his truck-driving days as a meat deliverer and quickly proved to be a loyal subject and effective killer – taking out anyone he was told to, no questions asked. At one point he is “assigned’ to none other than Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino), eventually becoming a trusted friend and confidant to the famous American union leader. Jimmy Hoffa and Frank Sheeran grow close over their years working together, even Sheeran’s closed-off daughter (Anna Paquin) shares a special bond with him. When Hoffa finds himself in a tough position with the powers that be when he becomes a little too outspoken, Sheeran is the voice of reason…that is until Hoffa’s disappearance in 1975.

People have been itching to see more of Hollywood legends Pacino and De Niro in the same film together since they both appeared (although not in the same timeline) in The Godfather Part II in 1974. The pair very briefly appeared together in Michael Mann’s Heat (1995), which only made people want it to happen moreThe Irishman is what we have been waiting decades for (we can just pretend that Righteous Kill never happened in 2008).

Scorsese, De Niro, and Pacino are the big names bringing in the viewers, but most people who see it can agree that the one who shines the most in The Irishman is Joe Pesci. He has never been better and he has never been so…calm. Pesci plays Russell Bufalino, the head of the Northeastern Pennsylvania crime family, and the one who Sheeran answers to. Even though he is the head of a crime family, Russell is just so damn likeable – someone who exudes loyalty and respect, and gets it in return. Both Pesci and Pacino are nominated for Best Supporting Actor – Drama at the 77th Golden Globes.

the irishman robert de niro and al pacino

The acting is phenomenal, the subject matter is interesting, the characters are intriguing and so well developed – the entire thing is nothing short of a masterpiece. Even so, it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. The length as well as the pace will be a bit too long and too slow for some viewers. It’s comes across as a much more mature film than Goodfellas or Casino and if you’re in a certain age bracket (65+), it might even hit you a little harder as you watch the aging actors come to terms with their past decisions. Like most Scorsese movies, it’s not a happy film, it won’t leave you giddy or even smiling. It’s heavy, as violence and betrayal often is.

It’s actually quite sad that many people didn’t get to see this epic mob movie in theatres – the way Scorsese would have wanted it to be seen. Because it was financed by Netflix, the theatrical window was too short and the only theatres playing the movie were the small, independent ones. Plus, there’s some other power struggle going on between studios, big chain theatres, and streaming services. It’s unfortunate that we miss out on seeing movies the way they were intended to be seen because of money and power.

I don’t know a single filmmaker who doesn’t want to design films for the big screen, to be projected before audiences in theaters…Would I like the picture to play on more big screens for longer periods of time? Of course I would. But no matter whom you make your movie with, the fact is that the screens in most multiplexes are crowded with franchise pictures.” – Martin Scorsese (New York Times article)

It’s a crappy deal for visionary filmmakers like Scorsese, but without Netflix, The Irishman never would have been made. So in the words of Russell Bufalino…

joe pesci the irishman

So boot up your Netflix, find 3.5 hours of quiet time, and get it done.

———

This guy got a lot of flak online, but for those who have too many obligations in order to spend 3.5 hours watching a movie, this is a good option to turn this long film into a mini-series.

the irishman viewing guide

Check out this amazing Rotten Tomatoes score (critics and audiences finally agree!):

Watch the official trailer here:

Darkest Hour – Joe Wright

Darkest Hour starring Gary Oldman, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Ben Mendelsohn.
Photo Credit: Jack English/Focus Features

It’s a movie that was made for the Oscars; you have a brilliant performance of a historical figure, impressive makeup and costume to go with the times, the inclusion of a powerful wartime speech, and artistic camera work. Darkest Hour is not the best movie to come out in 2017, not by a long shot, but no one can argue it’s a quality film and quite enjoyable. You get a glimpse into Winston Churchill’s battle to gain the trust of the Cabinet when he takes over as British Prime Minister for Neville Chamberlain in the early days of World War II.

It actually fits in really well with another film that was featured in the same Best Picture category at the Oscars – Dunkirk. They take place at the same time and it would benefit moviegoers to watch them both for historical purposes. It’s a time in history that not everyone is familiar with and it’s very interesting to see things happen from the soldiers’ perspectives as well as the political perspective. The two films couldn’t be more different but they stay true to their perspectives: the soldier’s point of view is action-based while a politician’s point of view is all about words.

Most people can agree that Gary Oldman deserved an Oscar a long time ago. He finally took one home at the 90th Academy Awards in early March for his portrayal of Churchill. It wasn’t even a question that he would win. He disappears into the character and brings a lot of spunk to a man most people have only read about in history classes. But of course his performance wouldn’t have been as effective without the makeup team, so the three of them also brought home Oscar for their efforts in Darkest Hour. The supporting cast of Kristin Scott Thomas, Lily James, and Ben Mendelsohn is good, but be under no false illusion that Darkest Hour is anything but the ‘Gary Oldman Show’. It’s a mere snapshot in time after all, when Churchill was facing his biggest decisions as Prime Minister, so most other characters are just filler.

In addition to Best Actor in a Leading Role (won), Best Picture, and Best Makeup and Hairstyling (won), Darkest Hour was also nominated for Best Cinematography. It’s one of those things that is actually hard to ignore in this film. If it’s something you don’t usually notice, you likely will notice it here.

Darkest Hour takes place at a time in history where things could have gone very differently for Britain, and the rest of the world. It’s not an edge-of-your-seat thriller but you definitely feel the sense of urgency. Knowing the outcome, the movie is done in such a way that makes you want to slap some sense into the opposition. During Churchill’s speeches you may even find yourself thinking, “Damn straight! You tell ‘em Winston!”. It’s as close to a universally enjoyable movie as you can get without being animated and released by Pixar. At just over 2 hours it’s a fairly standard run-time for a film of this nature. There is also no content in it that would be any cause for concern while watching with family, young or old. It’ll make you giggle, make you cheer (internally), and you might even learn a few things! If you’re a historian, as long as you forgive the filmmakers for taking dramatic license to tell the story, you won’t regret watching Churchill navigate through Britain’s “darkest hour”.

Watch the official trailer here:

Magic in the Moonlight – Woody Allen

Magic in the Moonlight starring Colin Firth, Emma Stone, Marcia Gay Harden, Jacki Weaver

Magic in the Moonlight starring Colin Firth, Emma Stone, Marcia Gay Harden, & Jacki Weaver

He did it again! Woody Allen is undoubtedly one of the greats, but his style and flavour don’t always appeal to the masses. His newest gem, however, has a light heartedness to it (not unlike his movie Scoop) that everyone can fall in love with.

Just as Blue Jasmine was seemingly written with Cate Blanchett in mind, it is impossible to imagine anyone other than Colin Firth playing the cynical magician Stanley Crawford in Woody Allen’s Magic in the Moonlight. Early on in the film, Stanley is tasked with debunking a young psychic medium’s claim that she can communicate with the dead and predict the future. He soon becomes enthralled by her abilities and can’t seem to crack the case. Emma Stone plays the lovely Sophie who appears to be using her talents to work her way into a prominent family residing in the beautiful French Riviera. While Stone’s performance compliments Firth’s, there is no denying his ability to captivate the audience with his delivery of often pessimistic and mocking sentiments, all the while remaining completely loveable. You watch Stanley’s view of life unravel before your eyes as he struggles to accept the idea of an afterlife as well as another foreign quality of life….happiness. Having been unashamedly logical and certain of everything in his life, this seemingly unsolvable mystery changes everything.

Like most Woody Allen films, the plot is simple and easy to follow; it’s the writing and the characters that make the movie an absolute delight to watch. Magic in the Moonlight has the air of an older film (it is set in the 1920’s after all) where witty dialogue, a cleverly placed twist, and a satisfying ending are the key components. While the location is undeniably lovely, there is no elaborate set design and the costumes suit the time period but do not distract from the rest of the film. The balance is perfect.

At just over an hour and a half, the length of the film is ideal. Unlike other summer movies, it is one that can easily be fit into a weekday evening after work and won’t leave you emotionally or physically drained. It is virtually a guarantee that you will be grinning like an idiot throughout the entire thing, so the most you will leave with are sore cheeks.