The Irishman (2019) – Time Changes Nothing

Well, what do we have here? A new movie from Martin Scorsese and it’s a masterpiece? Yeah, regardless of his criticism in Marvel (because everybody has their opinion), I can’t believe a movie like this exists in 2019. Watching this movie feels like watching all of your favorite Scorsese gangster movies. After Tarantino returned to the game and brought a new fresh story as well, Scorsese also didn’t want to lose. He was not alone too but he brought Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci on the same screen. We didn’t deserve this and this is like a fan-fiction we always dreamed of. Once again, we see them all reuniting and playing together in an old classic gangster movie about Jimmy Hoffa.

I did set my expectations for this movie this year. And yes, I love this film. Yeah, people complain about the runtime because if you watch it in the theater, you can’t stand it. Fortunately, this is another original Netflix movie. Well done, Netflix. To say at least every minute of this movie is pointless, I never thought there was one scene that was pointless to the story. And I never thought of that at all. It leaves a hype. Leaving a controversy after what Scorsese did, and at the end of the day, it’s a Scorsese film.

Robert De Niro retells his memory from an ordinary man to a ruthless hitman who stabs everything and everyone. De Niro, in his 75, might be a last movie and love letter to us if this is their last wish. Even Scorsese also tried hard to invite Joe Pesci before he retired from his acting career. From a book titled “I Heard You Paint Houses” written by Charles Brandt, this is a biography of Frank Sheeran. Frank is a WWII combat veteran who became a hitman mafia and right hand of a union leader and his best friend, Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino).

What makes “The Irishman” so special to a lot of people is also the de-aged technology when it comes to flashback sequences. Although they use the CGI to make the actors seem young, it just didn’t feel like a difference between the present times and the past. The difference begins to appear when the story tells in the third act, after-story. But, it’s nice to see De Niro also back to young like in his time in “Taxi Driver“. This is also one of the director’s ambitious Scorsese projects; like unfinished business.

Scorsese’s direction of this movie is more contemplative than all of his movies, especially gangsters. A lot of people also compare it to “Goodfellas” which is a fair comparison. Both of them have a voice-over, time-jumps, storytelling, and similar first opening shots. The first opening shot of the movie shows a nursing home, glides through the room to room, and we find De Niro’s Frank just sitting alone in a wheelchair. Without being able to do anything, he told how his life changed little by little to how he could be in a wheelchair.

This movie feels like a documentary where De Niro as Frank Sheeran, really nails it on his character, starts to speak to us and becomes a narrative. We immediately plunge into the criminal world of the old man, his personal life, and his framework. The movie deals a lot with history too, unless you should know how the premise, such as Mafia history (especially Jimmy Hoffa), JFK’s assassination, the mob wars, Castro and Cuba, Washington history, etc. Yet, if I think this movie is about politics and think 209-runtime full of politics, it’s not. Mostly, this movie tells about betrayed, age, regrets, the past, young, family, and yes, history as well.

Frank Sheeran is more of a passive character. He will always go with the flow and will always act when talking about business whether when having problems with relationships or else. Frank doesn’t act too much unless there is his boss commanding him. He is more an eccentric guy in contrast to Pacino’s Jimmy Hoffa as an exploded guy who likes to improvise. Frank isn’t like Hoffa but not too low-key as well as Pesci’s Russell Buffalino. But, what I like about his character is how he completes each task given by his boss, friend, or client.

“The Irishman” is the longest film Scorsese has directed. This is also the longest mainstream film released over twenty years. It’s fresh to see a film that goes beyond the mainstream runtime of theater and it’s not a blockbuster. For a three-and-a-half-hour movie, certain major actors, especially Harvey Keitel, just didn’t get so many screens; apart we just know that there was Harvey Keitel in Martin Scorsese movie. And yeah, a lot of characters too, like Scorsese gangster movies in general, is hard to understand. Like “Goodfellas” where you just watched a story about the life of a hitman. This movie is also like that and it has a lot to do with other sub-plots too.

As I say, de-aging technology isn’t quite there. The blood is also not too impressed to be on screen. I think Tarantino still uses blood practical effects in his recent movie rather than relying fully on CGI. But, it’s not bad nitpicking for me. “The Irishman” has many 20-minutes of sequences for just one scene. In that scene, you only witness how the characters acting and talking on screen. There are also many comical moments with the literal dialogue that have to expose how the characters react. Like there is one sequence where a group of characters is just talking about a fish. But, there is meaning after the sequence of how the dialogue becomes an exposition. There is also a scene about big ears.

This movie uses Frank’s part of the storytelling and narration, using his character as the story progresses. However, the most mesmerizing thing about his narration is that you can’t believe what he is saying. It’s not an unreliable narrator but it’s not a narrator you can trust too. Apart from this, it has a lot of layers if you don’t always think this is a gangster movie. It’s not and you don’t see many action scenes, with explosions, or anything. There is also much debate between how this movie becomes a film about violence but it’s more than that.

The ending also talks a lot about what happened next to the protagonist if you didn’t think in the context of history but literally and in parallel. The shot at the end of the movie might become a debate and what the meaning of the shot is. I also can’t wait if after the next 10 or 20 years, “The Irishman” will become a classic as well as “Goodfellas”. This movie has phenomenal acting and one of the best performances by Pesci.

Pesci wasn’t anymore an exploded yet psychopathic guy from “Goodfellas”. He is more intimidating apart he is just so calm and cold but you are just afraid when you start bothering him. This is also the best Al Pacino performance after decades. Yeah, put aside the Dunkaccino jokes. Al Pacino is so solid and over the top-notch since his performance in Michael Mann’s “Heat”. These are old people and it’s astonishing to see they accomplished their performance and their job well. The same as the supporting cast as well.

It’s also sad to see if this movie is like a farewell letter to filmmaking and us. We just can’t accept it when they are old. However, they still give a glimmer of hope and Scorsese reminds us that cinema isn’t just a place for escapists. And yes, this is an amazing movie, one of my anticipated films this year. “The Irishman” directly becomes a classic movie, still uses its tradition, still has its formula and style, and a movie you never see it again in the next year.

4.5 out of 5 stars.

Salman Al Farisi

An Indonesian who loves to watch and read everything. A literary student who likes to write about reviews and essays on Crackdown Review. But, I just wannabe critics who love arthouse than anything.

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