Martin Scorsese could never make another movie, and he would still be one of if not the best American directors. His body of work is chock full of undisputed classics, and his place in the canon is so vaunted that he can ignite a media firestorm simply by saying some commercially successful films aren’t his cup of tea.
And yet, Marty keeps working. And instead of churning out pale imitations of his earlier work whose success rests on Scorsese the brand, he churns out greatness. And whether or not they agree that the MCU doesn’t rise to the level of cinema, critics do agree that his latest, The Irishman, is a great film.
The most expensive, effects-dependent, and funniest (seriously) of Scorsese’s career is attracted near-universal critical love as measured by aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes, where 157 of 163 reviews from critics have been positive.
Liz Braun of the Toronto Sun says the film is “peak Scorsese — all manner of terrible things made wonderful to look at.” Considering the subjects he’s tackled in the past, from violence to mental illness to the breakup of The Band, this feels like an apt description.
In the New Yorker, Richard Brody gave it the rarest of plaudits from critics, who as a group love to harp on how bloated movies are: “It runs a minute shy of three and a half hours, and I wouldn’t wish it any shorter.” Brody called the “film grand and complex, colossal and intimate.”
Scorsese, in his much-discussed op-ed, said that true cinema is about “the complexity of people and their contradictory and sometimes paradoxical natures,” so we imagine he’d appreciate Brody’s conclusion.
Reading through these and other reviews, it’s striking that critics found so many different things to write about, from themes to cinematography to supporting performances to the film’s fidelity (or lack thereof) to both its source material and the true story.
So whether you think Scorsese’s Marvel take makes him an incurable snob or a noble truth-teller, everything that’s been written about The Irishman thus far makes us think that it’s worth your time.