As promised, a handful of movie posts are coming your way. Next in line is Scorsese’s The Irishman (2019), a masterpiece giving viewers excellently executed scenes between brilliant actors.
I heard you paint houses.
Yes. Yes I do. I also do my own carpentry.
Told from mob hitman Frank Sheeran’s perspective, this three and a half hour opus magni is a look into the murder of his good friend, American labor union leader Jimmy Hoffa.
The viewer is clearly presented with a transparent story of Frank’s beginnings as a truck driver and his coming up in the Philadelphia crime world, until he becomes close friend and bodyguard to Hoffa himself. Unfortunately, Hoffa’s ideas do not align with the Philly mob’s plans and Frank must go through the ultimate test of loyalty.
I have only praise for this one, so if I am overlooking something crucial (or minuscule, that’s up to you) feel free to add your thoughts in the comments below.
How De Niro is shown in his final form, in a wheelchair, old and fragile, recollecting what happened, and bringing a close to the often glamorous exteriors of an exhausting job he has chosen to take on for all of these years – the first prominent impression is one of authenticity. All sides and shades of the story are being shown throughout, no one is trying to gain sympathy or gain favor, which is always a commendable trait for the storyteller.
De Niro does an astounding job in his role, as is to be expected – even his imdb profile states him as the greatest actor of all time. While others should share that honor (rather one of the, not the), the sentiment carries truth in it.
The real-life connection to Hoffa is a fascinating aspect of the movie in many ways, and has also been constructed incredibly well. The magic of Irishman is – as Scorsese loves to show us in most of his movies – ambivalent human perspective of a killer: we are dealing with ruthless mobsters, but somehow many of them are concerned about leaving the right image on Frank’s ten year old daughter.
Although Peggy has almost no lines during the entire movie, her initial anxiety and later on strong disapproval towards her father show very clearly in her eyes. Real-life Peggy stopped talking to her father right after Hoffa disappeared. The morality clause is present, the wives are visible albeit mostly also silent, and the issue of a man’s responsibilities from a societal perspective are brought into view as well. That is not the main focus of the story, but it absolutely has a place inside it.
It is also interesting that in reality, Sheeran has confessed to murdering Hoffa, which is how the story is told inthe movie, as per his statement. Nevertheless, there is an alternative theory, but this is the reality we have been given for now, by the alleged murderer himself. That truth presents a beautifully disfigured ideology of uncompromised loyalty, since Russell Bufalino, head of the Scanton Mafia, has taken Frank in and continues to support his upcoming as a hitman for the crime syndicate.
The entire story has two key ingredients: power and loyalty run the entire show, and – at least from Russell’s perspective, Hoffa has denounced loyalty in an egostic search of power. This is why “it is as it is” for him in the end. Frank has to put himself into the position he puts himself into and prove his loyalty to his mentor, betraying his good friend in the process. By doing such an unspeakable act by means of altruism and not for his own interests but of those of his peers (rather, bosses, but Russell and Frank seem to have a brotherly relationship by the end of the movie), it almost – almost – induces sympathy. On some crooked scale of good and evil, Frank has done the right thing.
Once again, Scorsese manipulates his viewer perfectly while showing the vulnerable side of a world full of violence, ruthlessness and lust for power. Moreover, Pesci and Capone also excell in showing just that in their excellent performances.
Speaking of the process: This movie is very, very long. Watching it in a movie theatre would probably be difficult, solely because of bodily processes and attention holding abilities of a person. This is why Netflix is the perfect platform for enjoying a three hour movie at home with your favourite snacks and as many bathroom breaks as necessary.
The story is introspective and analytical at times, and takes a relaxed tempo for what is an intense story to tell, but it is always in movement and never drags. While it is not possible not to notice that there are still 1,5 hours to go after having finished every single snack on the table, there is also still suspense and interest left.
So no, the run time was not too long. It was perfect.
On a technical side note: There have been remarks about digitally rejuvenating De Niro and other actors. Well… how else would this movie have been made? Although I was aware of it before watching and it is obvious as we know how old the actors are, I did not notice any sort of obvious digital enchancement that would disturb the storytelling or scene aesthetic.
Fun fact: Hoffa’s murder case is now supposedly closed, but in reality disappeared in July of 1975 and his body was never found. Some are still looking.
What a story. And what a movie.