Before I get into how I feel about The Irishman I’d just like to say that it is kind of a miracle that this film actually got made. Thanks to Netflix for picking it up and letting Marty create the magic that he always does. So, let’s get back to the film at hand. The Irishman is different from a film like GoodFellas particularly in it’s pacing. While the 1990 film was more about the speed at which the mob goes, this is more of a methodical approach. The result is that we get to see all elements of the mob, the government and most importantly the men.
This is more to do with how these men deal with what what they’ve done. The most obvious example of this is Frank Sheeran (Robert de Niro) and the final shot says so much about him. It ends up being a little heartbreaking to see a man at the brink. The Irishman is backed up by what you expect from a film that has this much firepower. From the performances that frequently feel sublime and the direction that knows when to reveal and when to hold back. A special mention has to be made about Rodrigo Prieto’s camera that captures all the chaos with such elegance that it feels intoxicating.
And of course, you can’t talk about The Irishman without the heavyweights that are involved. De Niro, Pacino and Pesci all pull off their best work in years and they’re not really playing to type here. Pesci’s Russell is in many ways the anti Tommy from GoodFellas. You don’t expect him to be this way but it is a revelation to see him introspect so much while being a complete badass. De Niro does explode every now and then but by the end of the film, there is almost a sense of guilt and regret in his mind. Pacino on the other hand gets the most showy part of the film and is in incredible form. When you have so many people operating at their peak, the results are going to be magical.
These three are supported by some fine turns including Harvey Keitel, Ray Romano and Anna Paquin who in a nearly wordless performance says so much about Frank the man. The Irishman is more than just a story about the mob. It is about betraying friends, losing family and all the while looking to survive. The jobs these men do takes a lot out of them and it is visible both physically and literally. Using digital effects to show the age of these men will feel a little distracting to begin with. But due to the power of talent on display, you will soon forget that and be invested in the story. I’d never thought I would get to see a somber mob film from Marty but I’m so happy that he’s entered that zone. More than anything else, The Irishman is proof that there are very few directors who can stage a scene as well as Scorsese does. From all of us, thank you for The Irishman. Keep making more movies and bringing such amazing talents together. Also, thank you Netflix.
There is a bittersweet feeling while watching Once Upon A Time In Hollywood and its not because of what’s happening on screen. It is when you realize that Tarantino has only one film left in his self-imposed ten film rule. But getting back to the screen, it is genuinely fun to see QT play with the audience so much. He pulls back when we expect him to go full throttle and vice-versa. There are moments that are laced with his trademark humor. He shows that there are few better than him when it comes to selecting a soundtrack. It is one of the many ways he evokes the era. And the incredible song choices which began with “Stuck in the Middle With You” in Reservoir Dogs is present here. One such example is him using the Simon & Garfunkel classic “Mrs. Robinson” for the first time Brad Pitt comes across Margaret Qualley. An ironic way to describe these two characters and only something that QT could have thought of.
You will find many people will go into this film expecting a typical Tarantino film but that is not the case here. What we get is a different version of the director as he is able to focus less on style and more on substance. He does this by focusing heavily on the characters that populate the screen. We do get the trademarks of QT – the violence, the cracking dialogue etc. but it doesn’t ratchet up the way we expect it to. This works better in this setting for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is more about the feel of a place than it’s story.
And now we come to the film’s biggest draw, the cast. When you have so many heavyweights in one film you expect fireworks and they deliver big time. It was so wonderful to see all the cameos popping up on screen. But the film ultimately belongs to the two leading men. They light up every scene they appear in and both bring out the best in them. You might be wondering if there’s an actor cooler than Brad Pitt today? Man has so much swagger it is almost unfair on the rest of us mere mortals.
A lot of QT films show off their flair visually and Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is no different. Robert Richardson showcases LA in the late 60s with such precision that it almost feels like we are there. I don’t know how much of the city was digitally altered to make it work but my god it works beautifully. Would I recommend this film to people who aren’t really fans of QT? Yes, I would. Is it a quintessential QT film ? Not really but that is just him evolving as a film maker. Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is a like a stick of dynamite with a really long fuse. It takes time to explode but once it does, it is truly magnificent. Please don’t stop after 10 films QT – Sincerely, a big fan.
There are many directors that get criticized for focusing more on the style aspect of their film making. Some of the biggest names in this list include legends of the industry such as Brian De Palma. Michael Mann is also mentioned as part of this “list”. It’s in quotes because it is a dubious list and not reflective of reality. This is becuause, as I have mentioned in an earlier post, style is a very subjective topic. So, let’s move on to the film. In my opinion, Heat is one of the best crime/action films I’ve ever seen. Apart from the opportunity to see two of the finest actors of all time share screen space, we get some absolutely tense and nail-biting sequences. This includes one of the best shootouts in movie history. Despite there being so much about in a film such as this, I would like to talk about, as you guessed from the title, ‘The Showdown’.
This is the moment that anyone who sees the film will be waiting for. The showdown between two legends, also happens to be a pivotal aspect of the whole story. What makes this a truly special scene, apart from the history we are witnessing is just how engrossing it actually is. These guys could have sat across each other, not said a word and it would have amazing. That is primarily due to how much Pacino and De Niro can convey through silence. But they do talk and it offers wonderful insights into their characters. It tells us about the respect they have for one another despite wanting to take the other person down. The film delves deeper into their lives and their psyche and it also shows us the impact of their actions on their everyday life. It is this relationship that frames the story.
It is elements such as this that elevate Heat to one being one of the all-time great crime sagas. The level of detailing present, makes the film feel authentic and this goes a long way in increasing the overall impact. But despite all this, the film will always be remember for the ‘The Showdown’ and for that, all I can say is, thank you Michael Mann.