Before I get to what I thought about the movie, some discussion of where I saw it is warranted.
Netflix. At home. On 108 inch screen.
With very high-def digital projection.
Surround sound, with excellent sub-woofers, although not really a requirement for this movie, unlike Blackhawk Down.
Way back in July, I read this WSJ article:
Scorcese’s historical drama “The Irishman” — which is expected to cost at least $173 million — might be the company’s riskiest bet. The movie will use cutting-edge visual effects that allow stars including Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci to appear at different ages, according to the report. Netflix bought the rights to “The Irishman” after major studios passed because of budget concerns.
“Without Netflix, ‘Irishman’ would not have been made,” sources told the Journal. “I just don’t see [other] studios wanting to dive into these projects anymore. I think they are staying away from the riskier, more mature films, especially dramas.”
I like going to the movie theater (you know that!). I like both the SuperLux experience and the Indie scene.
I am respectful of tradition, and support artistic (and social) goals of filmmaking through film festivals (Telluride, Sundance, TriBeca) and producing documentaries.
But I also like technology innovation, convenience (Perlora couch, Napa Cabernet, ability to pause and take bio breaks..)…and people who take risks and make bold bets.
I am not Jason Gay, who wrote in today’s WSJ “Sorry, Martin Scorsese, I watched ‘The Irishman on my phone):
I’m uncultured. A heretic. A philistine. A 21st-century, tech-addicted boor with no appreciation for the beauty of cinema.
Now, what did I think about the movie? Let me use the WSJ review Greatfellas as the anchor.
I disagree with:
After scores of celebrated films and almost half a century of richly deserved fame, Martin Scorsese did not seem poised for a breakthrough. That’s what he’s accomplished in “The Irishman,”
No, it is not a breakthrough. I do agree with:
Once again he is recounting the exploits of gangsters, very bad goodfellas who whack one another without mercy and tend to come to bad ends. Once again he’s working with two of his closest collaborators, Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci, plus Al Pacino, who has invested fair amounts of his own time playing persons of violent persuasion.
I also agree with:
The unlikely candidate for antiheroism is Mr. De Niro’s Frank Sheeran. He’s an Irishman among Italians…
This brings me to a major issue: the casting of Robert De Niro as Frank Sheeran! My suggestions: Ralph Fiennes, Colin Farrell, Liam Neeson.
Of course, then it would not be a Martin Scorsese movie!
I agree with:
The movie’s signal achievement is making us care about this man.
A computer-generated de-aging process allows Mr. De Niro and his co-stars, all three of them septuagenarians, to appear as their younger selves. It may sound dubious, but the results are so astonishing that you quickly come to believe, rather than merely accept, the evidence of your eyes.
And what lends impact to Mr. Scorsese’s drama is its depiction of a mob so invisibly and inextricably tied into our national affairs that it orchestrated nothing less than John F. Kennedy’s election and assassination, not to mention his administration’s disastrous attempt to invade Castro’s Cuba. None of those notions are new, and they may not be true, but as presented they’re as believable as the stars’ youthened faces.
What else could the movie have done to make it “very good” rather than simply “good” or “pretty decent” or “you get what you went in expecting”?
More time for Peggy (his daughter, played by Anna Paquin).
Indeed, if I can be so bold, imagine her as the narrator.
I am glad I saw it.
I feel the same way as I did after I saw Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood.
It was competent. It was quintessential Tarantino (the ending). It is what I expected going in. It is not Pulp Fiction or Kill Bill vol. 2 or even Inglorious Basterds.
The Irishman is vintage Scorsese. It matched my expectations. It is not GoodFellas. I liked The Irishman better than The Departed because I had already seen and liked the (Hong Kong) original, Infernal Affairs.
Scorsese and Tarantino are great Directors (and cinephiles) enjoying their craft, on topics close to their heart. Vanity projects that they want to share with fans (like me).
This is not a bad thing! When I go to see a James Bond movie, I want to see a James Bond movie.
I am eagerly looking forward to No Time to Die. The preview looks really good, and I doubt that the movie will be a breakthrough. Enjoy!