Martin Scorsese is arguably the greatest living film director. He has made some of the most well regarded and remarkable films of the last several decades. With The Irishman, there's a not insignificant corner of cinema that believes that he might have actually produced his masterwork. Unsurprisingly, this has resulted in a collection of Academy Award nominations, including nods for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay.
To be sure, there's something about The Irishman that makes it feel like it's the movie Martin Scorsese was always working toward. It follows a member of organized crime, a particularly popular subject of Scorsese movies, and tells us an entire life story. It digs deep not only into the motivations and the actions of Frank Sheeran, but into the consequences, and the guilt that can come from such actions. As Scorsese recently told Variety, his desire to explore these greater questions, themes that come with mortality, was exactly the main reason he wanted to make the movie in the first place. According to the director...
That was the main reason to do the film. We need to think of those things, as human beings and as a society. In the 21st century, we shy away from it. Why not embrace it? You engage with mortality. And it’s not only death, but the question of whether there is meaning in life. Many people think there is no meaning. Well, if there isn’t, then you need to give it meaning
The Irishman covers practically the entire adult life of its main character, played by Robert De Niro. We see the world evolve in the background as we follow Frank Sheeran through his life working within organized crime and the Teamsters Union. The film is narrated to us by an aged Sheeran who is looking back on the life he has led. Martin Scorsese says he wanted to deal with themes of mortality and responsibility, that he wasn't afraid to embrace these concepts that most of us try and avoid.
Because of The Irishman's reflective nature, it feels right that the movie directed by Martin Scorsese includes Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and even Joe Pesci in its cast. These people are part of a generation of filmmakers that, almost certainly, are doing their own looking back in a lot of ways. It's the sort of movie that only a group like this could make, and one they could only make at this point in their careers.
That The Irishman is a great piece of work from Martin Scorsese is not a topic of debate. The only real question right now is if the movie will win a volume of little gold statues equal to its perceived greatness. We'll find out on Sunday evening.