In The Irishman, Veteran director Martin Scorsese returns with, arguably, his best film since the release of Goodfellas almost 30 years ago. Featuring three incredible performances courtesy of Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci, The Irishman is a 205 minutes epic mob saga spanning decades in the life of Mafia hitman Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran (De Niro). The film also made headlines for its use of highly innovative youthification technology, which in turn allowed Scorsese to use his preferred actors throughout the film, instead of having to resort to casting younger lookalikes.
Written by Steven Zaillian (Schindler’s List, Gangs of New York, Moneyball), The Irishman is based on the 2004 memoir I Heard You Paint Houses by Charles Brandt and tells the story of Sheeran’s close relationship with the mob and how he found himself at the centre of the mystery of the disappearance of union boss Jimmy Hoffa in the summer of 1975.
The year is 1950 and Frank Sheeran (De Niro), a WWII veteran and truck driver, is befriended by the head of the Bufalino crime family, Russell Bufalino (Pesci at his brilliant best). Frank quickly rises within the ranks of the organisation having proved his worth as a the man who gets things done without asking too many questions. When he is dispatched by his boss to Chicago to help Teamster union boss Jimmy Hoffa (Pacino) with some picket line jumping taxi drivers, Frank soon forms a lasting friendship with Hoffa.
Years later, Frank finds himself caught between his loyalty to the mob and that of an increasingly erratic Hoffa. Having backed Nixon over Kennedy at the presidential elections, relations between Hoffa and the mob take a turn for the worst which isn’t helped by his continued disrespect for their chosen union man and Hoffa’s natural successor Anthony Provenzano (Stephen Graham).
Martin Scorsese presents a stunning period piece which somehow seems so much more mature than his earlier work. He offers a beautifully precise, intricate and genuinely engaging story whilst managing to avoid shock value in favour of authenticity. Elevated by a great cast which includes three of the greatest acting talents of all time, The Irishman is truly a thing of beauty and a film which is bigger and more convincing than any of us could have hoped.
At the age of 76, Robert De Niro is still very much at the top of his acting game. He gives a beautifully understated and wholly believable turn as Frank whom he offers as a quietly taciturn and diligently hard-working individual. While Al Pacino gives a truly outstanding performance as Hoffa, whom he plays with real gusto.
Coming out of retirement for one last great role, Joe Pesci gives an impeccable turn as Russell Bufalino whom he depicts with frightening precision and attention to detail. Elsewhere, Ray Romano impresses once more as mob attorney Bill Bufalino, while Stephen Graham is electrifying in the Anthony Provenzano role.
In an era where the term masterpiece has been thrown willy nilly, it’s safe to say that Martin Scorsese has given us one of the finest films of his long and fruitful career. He presents a story which is so elegantly crafted and so masterfully executed, that you barely notice that 3 whole hours have have wizzed by. The Irishman is cinema at its purest and most real form, and to quote the master himself at a recent press conference, go see it on the biggest screen you can lay your hands on.