The Irishman is an immersive masterpiece and one of Netflix’s best


Throughout my extensive— to say the least— use of Netflix, I have mainly viewed Netflix’s original movies as a bland sideshow, just more content to check the boxes and entice buyers. Movies such as The Ridiculous Six and Murder Mystery built up a well-founded belief in me that Netflix had no interest in even making a halfway decent movie. 

I carried this prejudice towards Netflix originals into The Irishman. The only reason I watched it was because of my respect for the director Martin Scorsese, and he did not disappoint. 

The Irishman is the first Netflix original directed by Martin Scorsese, widely regarded as one of the best directors of all time. This movie has been a passion project of his and is the true story of a hitman for a 1950s organized crime group. Oscar-worthy performances fill the screen with thoughtful vitality throughout, especially from Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci, the three main leads.

Most of the movie is focused on the shifting relationship between these three men. Robert De Niro plays Frank, a man who begins working for the mob and gets increasingly involved in their affairs. He soon becomes an ally of the head of the mob, Russell Bufalino. He then begins to work for Jimmy Hoffa, one of the most important men in America at the time. 

The larger-than-life Jimmy Hoffa was brought to the screen by Al Pacino with all the revelry and gusto Pacino is known for. Pacino sinks into this role, fitting the over-the-top energy of it like a glove. Joe Pesci as Bufalino takes a much more nuanced approach. His performance gives the feeling of an uncompromising danger underneath his calm demeanor, an unspoken threat that hangs in the air everywhere he goes. His inherently authoritative and all-knowing aura lends great weight to the character.

Robert De Niro is a dynamic lead with an abundance of depth and growth throughout the movie. His performance gives believability to the film. No line feels forced or scripted; it’s as if he is just speaking what is on his mind and living through the whirlwind of events around him. This strong performance grounds the film and gives more power to the emotional aspects of the film.

This film is three and a half hours long, a real marathon to sit through; however, the film earns its run time and ends up feeling more like a two and a half hour movie. The fact that it’s a Netflix movie means that you can come back again and again, finishing it in multiple sittings and rewatching it. I would say that my second viewing was important, allowing me to really process the deeper messages of the film and see the foreshadowing and smaller events that would pay off later in the film.

The long time frame means the movie is allowed to linger on important moments and really meditate on the actions and thoughts of its characters. This movie takes place over several decades allowing slow development of the characters and a vivid picture of the fallout of these characters’ violent actions. This movie deals with mature subjects and does not flinch away from the human costs of the lives these men live. Families are broken, betrayals are committed, friendships deteriorate, and Scorsese has us see it all—no fluff or cutaway, just the raw picture of how these events affect a person. 

The directing done by Martin Scorsese is some of his finest. He brings with him some of his signature techniques, such as freeze frames, lingering shots, and narration. He also brought his focus on character-driven stories. This movie does not focus on a plot; it simply moves where the characters bring it, which creates constantly active and interesting characters. 

The originality brought to the table here is incredible. To bring this scale of a story, straddling decades of time and showing not an event, not a time period, but a man’s life, is amazing. This kind of storytelling feels familiar in Scorsese’s hands but is a completely new way of approaching moviemaking. This originality is part of what left me thinking long after watching it and contemplating the questions the movie presented that had no easy answers. Scorsese is a master, and he proves that in The Irishman.

The actors and director are not the only ones putting exceptional work into this movie. These actors are old, so old, in fact, that makeup will not cut it when making these guys look fifty. Using new de-aging software, the visual effects team was able to scan their faces without dots or stickers, allowing the actors to better communicate with each other without interference. I could not tell where the CGI ended and the real faces took over. My immersion into the story was amplified by the complete visual realism accomplished in this movie. using visual effects not as a wow factor, but instead as a tool to better tell the story was both smart and effective.

The Irishman deepened my respect for Martin Scorsese and all of the actors involved. It should be considered a milestone for each and every person involved in the creation of this movie. Already, critics have predicted an Oscar win for best picture and a possible, if a little unlikely, supporting actor win for Joe Pesci. These awards would be earned as this is a unique, industry-changing epic. This movie shattered my biases and sparked my interest in other Netflix originals as well, such as Dolemite Is My Name. Netflix has earned my respect with this movie, and I hope they continue to allow directors and screenwriters with this caliber of expertise to put their visions on screen.

This movie is a stunning portrayal of three real men who were tied to organized crime. It pulls no punches and tells their story in an immersive and realistic way. Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro, and many others are at the top of their game and create a film that provokes and satisfies— a true masterpiece.