Upon Netflix Streaming services obtaining the rights to director Martin Scorsese’s three and a half hour gangster epic, The Irishman, the filmmaker fought for a limited theatrical release to display the film in it’s intended format. This formidable run time makes it a savvy purchase for Netflix, as more casual viewers may conveniently elect to watch it in spurts. For filmgoers searching for an authentic movie-going experience, the movie is now playing at approximately 250 theaters domestically. Brookline’s Coolidge Corner Theatre appears to be one of the pack, endorsing the integrity of a real film experience. While the length is undoubtedly intimidating, watching it on the big screen is the better option.

Scorsese’s new crime-epic is a leisurely and insightful dissection of man’s grim nature. Culminated by grand technical and thematic achievement, The Irishman is a contrite de-glamorization of mob movie mantras and anti-heroes. The director’s previous works, Goodfellas and Casino, were high-octane, nefariously thrilling exploitations of moral bankruptcy. The film employs a far more evolved and contemplative perspective. It dives deeper into the psyche of these contentious characters. We spend a majority of the run time ruminating on the emotional repercussions of this lifestyle.

A popular topic surrounding the film’s release was its use of visually de-aging its stars to depict them at different stages in their lives. The effects are virtually seamless, resurrecting and reasserting its three stars back into their primes. This effort marks the beginning of a revolutionary practice that is sure to change the way we view cinema going forward. It’s an absolute delight to see these three legends (Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci) in peak form once again. Pacino is uncanny and suitably rousing as the fabled celebrity. The thorough delineation of Hoffa and his Teamsters escapades will function as catnip for American history buffs. Pacino and De Niro are masterful, but it is Pesci that ultimately steals the show. After a 9-year absence from acting, Pesci delivers a subdued and quietly sinister portrait of collared malevolence. He exudes an ice-cold vitality that captivates the viewer every time he’s on screen. Each actor is worthy of an Oscar nomination if not a win, as all three are the best they’ve been in decades.

What truly elevates the film is Scorsese’s fascination with the duality of man. The recital of Hoffa’s demise is rendered in tones of Greek mythology and Shakespearian tragedy. His hubris is channeled with high intensity and is what leads to his downfall ultimately. Criminals can be reduced to cardboard cutouts, but Scorsese finds a way to make even the most unprincipled men feel sympathetic. It is within the final hour that everything comes to fruition, and we identify the film’s true essence.

The Irishman is both a character study and a mournful introspection of regret. The exhilaration of mafia violence is toned down and substituted with a reflection on how trivial these matters may be. These men devote their loyalty to false idols and operate under the conditions of pride and revenge. The subtext explores time’s finite nature. Things end up fading away in time. The things we thought were important end up being dust in the wind, and the things we neglect are what we long for once it’s too late. While procuring his mafia movie trademarks, Scorsese employs a profoundly reflective interpretation of the human condition. While it implements a familiar template, it molds its own identity as another essential masterpiece from one of cinema’s greatest auteurs.

Grade: A

By Sam Clark