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Why is ‘The Irishman’ One of the Greatest Movies of the decade?

Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and Al Pacino. With these legends collaborating on a movie, it is obvious that we will expect something out of the world. And, this movie not only surpasses our expectations as cinema lovers but also takes a flight to reach the benchmark of one of the greatest movies ever made.

Thanks to Netflix for taking this project up. Almost all the big studios refused to invest their money in it because of its sky-touching budget and low recovery aspect.

I don’t blame the studios for that. They are all here to make money. And, this Scorsese extravaganza is not Avengers, or Batman or some other superhero movie where they can expect to get their money back.

And, by the way, Netflix operates on a completely different model.

It will not be surprising to see The Irishman amongst the fame of Godfather, Citizen Kane and Shawshank Redemption in the next five years or so. With such deep metaphors, subtle performances, and non-linear storylines, the movie gives us so much to reflect on the lives that we live in.

That is exactly what cinema is all about.

How many movies have you seen which have stirred something inside and forced you to change?

Well, that’s the impact of a great movie.

Let me explain the things I saw in this movie which makes it ‘The Irishman’ the greatest movie made in recent times.


Spoilers Ahead


Two acting giants coming on screen after a long time

Robert De Niro and Al Pacino are the two actors who started their careers almost at the same time and emerged to be the greatest in the world. Both have their signature style of delivering performances and exceptional range. But, it has been very few times that we have seen them together.

In Godfather Part II (1974), they were never in the same scene, whereas in Heat (1995) they had only one scene together. Though in Righteous Kill (2008) they shared a lot of screen space, it was just too much! It was a desperate attempt to bring them together.

But, In Irishman, Martin Scorses uses them intelligently. Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) and Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino) do not meet straight away. After almost 45 minutes of the film, they get introduced to each other on a phone call, and then eventually meet to become good friends.

This builds up enough interest among the viewers to savor their screen presence. And, it is not only about their screen presence I am talking about. It is the way their friendship is shown throughout the movie that creates so much suspense in the last moments of the film.

You may have noticed that last hug which Frank shares with Hoffa. After they hug, Frank stays in there for a second, grabbing Hoffa, feeling his warmth for the last time. He knows that Hoffa will be no more, his end is near. That’s how you use great actors.

The Gold Ring and The Watch

Right the first shot of the movie, in which the camera travels through what looks like a royal cafe, we see Frank with a ring and a watch in his right hand, sitting on a chair, all set to reveal the story of his life to us.

The ring is given to him by Russ (Joe Pesci) stating that only three people have it with them. Angelo (Harvey Keitel), Russ and now Frank. That is a gift from Russ for whom he works ‘not for money but out of respect’ as stated by Frank.

The Watch is something Frank received from Hoffa on the day he took over as the president of the Union. The friendship between Hoffa and Frank is such that when Frank requests him to be a part of the celebrations, Hoffa accepts it even though he is going through really tough times.

Also, there is a reason behind these two scenes coming one after the other. First Hoffa gives him the watch and immediately in the next scene we see that conversation between Russ and Frank. Hoffa and Russ are the people who shaped Frank’s life. So, he never takes them off him, as seen in the first scene. Both these things for him are the symbols of remembrance.

Peggy - Frank’s Conscience

Frank was a part of the military and since then he has been following orders of the higher officials. Back then it was the military officials and now it is Russ and Angelo. There is nobody with whom he talks about these killings. He is, of course, doing it to protect his family and earn a good living, and probably everyone in the family knows what he is into, there is no one with whom he talks about it.

Even in the latter part of his life, when everyone from the clan has died, he does not even say about it to the police or the priest.

But there is one person to whom he cannot face throughout his life. It’s his daughter Peggy.

Whenever she asks him about it, he somehow manages to hide his eyes from him. Peggy’s eyes say a lot. As if she knows what the answer would be but yet wants Frank to tell her the truth. But, that never happens.

Metaphorically, Peggy represents Frank's conscience. He knows that he is a criminal and cannot justify it to himself. Maybe he has not even looked at himself in the mirror. He has never taken his decisions in life. He has lost himself long back. And, that happens what was destined to in the end. Frank loses Peggy.

But, even when he goes to apologise to her, his words that he has not been a good father are blunt and emotionless. And, he says this to his other daughter, and not Peggy as she refuses to even meet him.

The Open Door

This is the most powerful metaphor for me. When Frank stays in Jimmy Hoffa’s house, he notices that Jimmy Hoffa keeps the door of his bedroom a bit open while sleeping. He wonders why he does that. Maybe Jimmy does not want to feel trapped in. Maybe he is scared of himself, or loneliness.

And, we see the movie ending at an open door. When the priest leaves his room, Frank tells him to keep the door open. This is to remember his friend Jimmy. Maybe he wants the soul of his lost friend to come and hold his hand.

If Jimmy was a great friend of Frank, why did he kill him? Well, it is all about protecting himself and his own family.

‘It is what it is’ - Russ says to him before going to Detroit. Frank must do it if he wants his family to be alive. That is what it is.

No matter how many good friends we make, we are all selfish when it comes to the things we possess. Our families.

And, even if Frank would not have done it, say for a matter of fact, then Jimmy would have anyway died. And, Franks also would have been strangled to death. So, Frank must have said that if Jimmy is gonna die anyway, let me save my family.

Digging our own grave

Even though Frank has never gotten a chance to make a decision about the killings, he definitely gets a chance to choose his own coffin. And that’s what he has been doing. He has been digging his own grave and ultimately he is gonna die one day in the same grave he dug.

This is symbolised in the scene back from his military days, where he shoots two military after they dig the ground.

Also, the picture of death is the cruelest one. It takes only a moment for anyone to die. Not like other Scorsese films where people are strangled to death. Here, Frank does it in a matter of seconds. That’s the nature of death. It’s about only one moment.


These are major things I noticed about the film and I am pretty sure, in times to come, I will eventually discover more things as I watch it repeatedly. This is what the magic of movies is.

A great movie is something in which you discover new things every time you watch

Written By

Sachin Bhat,


Belgaum International Short Film Festival.


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