'The Irishman' creates its own language, as its performers portray powerful, dangerous people with quiet subtlety
Very few things are explicitly stated in the movie, and a language of inferences is communicated skillfully by the film's seasoned leads
Had it been any other movie or any other actors, the special effects on 'The Irishman' that de-aged the cast would have been too distracting to be able to pay attention to the movie. The work that has been done in this movie is incredible, but there is still something that's just a little off about it.
However, the cinematography and performances work together to draw you deep enough into the story for you to get used to it, and it is the performances, not the de-aging technology, that will stay with you long after the credits have rolled.
The Martin Scorcese film follows mob hitman Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) and his time with the mob under Russell Buffalino (Joe Pesci), as well as the development of his friendship with union leader Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino).
The performances by the three leads are subtle and simple. You don't notice what an incredible job they're doing to tell the story until almost after it's over.
The mob lingo and indirect references to the crimes being committed are a little dense, at first, but it's not long before you pick up on the subtleties of what's happening, that becomes a language of its own.
It's very rare that anything's explicitly stated. You learn to read so much from a gesture, from a look, from what's not said or where there's hesitation that it's almost a shock whenever something's said plainly.
Joe Pesci channels the story being told of his character. You never see him do anything dangerous or give explicit orders for the same. Without context, he has every appearance of a small, quiet man, but one that everyone listens to.
He sells himself as the beating heart, mind, and soul of an intricate criminal enterprise, and his voice is the voice of the mob.
Al Pacino's Jimmy Hoffa is a hothead — it’s important to the plot and it’s immediately recognizable in the story. He’s all power, enthusiasm, and strength to begin with, and as his status slowly pulls away from him, he reveals how much of a powder keg he is when he feels he’s being disrespected.
Robert De Niro, of course, is at the center of it all. The story has been sold not as a glimpse into Jimmy Hoffa, but as the story of the man who killed him. Frank is the perfect hitman and the perfect soldier.
He's a powder keg, too, one who will explode violently given half a chance, but ultimately one whose gunpowder has been honed into a weapon to be used. He's at his most comfortable taking orders, and the respect he shows to his superiors is absolute.
He never once questions his order or loyalty, and there's a disassociation to his crimes and any guilt regarding them that feels cold, and hollow. It’s the note that ends the movie.
The tale of 'The Irishman' is not unlike a Greek tragedy, where circumstances are set up in such a way that by the end of the story, you know that things could not have been any different.
Every actor sells it. Jimmy Hoffa was never going to back down, and Frank tried his best to help his friend out of tough situations, but when push comes to shove? Frank's a loyal soldier, and he had his orders — it is what it is.