Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review, London Film Festival 2019

The Irishman (2019)

Image is property of Netflix

The Irishman  – Film Review

Cast: Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Al Pacino, Ray Romano, Anna Paquin, Stephen Graham, Jesse Plemons, Harvey Keitel

Director: Martin Scorsese

Synopsis: An account of the life of Frank Sheeran, charting how he rose through the ranks of the mob, eventually arriving at the top where he meets the charismatic Jimmy Hoffa, and the circumstances that surrounded Hoffa’s disappearance…

Review: There’s no two ways about it, Martin Scorsese is the Godfather of gangster movies. With six of them to his name, the ones he has made rank as some of the very best films of this genre. They sit alongside the many incredible films that he has made throughout his long and illustrious career as a director. Though with his latest gangster epic, one of the most expensive Netflix productions to date, he has incredibly managed to surpass himself, by making one of the best crime/gangster films of the decade.

Spanning multiple decades, the film is told from the perspective of Frank Sheeran (De Niro). It begins with a flashback look at his early life, and how as a young man how he went from a soldier to becoming a hitman for the mob. Eventually, as he rises up the ranks gradually becoming more powerful and gaining more influence in the higher echelons, he meets and becomes close with the charismatic Union Leader Jimmy Hoffa (Pacino). Whilst simultaneously exploring how Frank became entwined in the circumstances that surrounded Hoffa’s disappearance.

It should come as no surprise given the stature of the three leading men, and the four Oscars between them, that each and every one of them give powerhouse performances. Marking his ninth collaboration with Scorsese, Robert De Niro gives his best performance in a long time as Frank Sheeran. He’s far from a good guy, yet with an actor of De Niro’s immense charisma, there are sympathetic elements to Sheeran’s character. Though he might have retired from acting in the late 1990s, Scorsese reunites with Joe Pesci, to wonderful effect as crime boss Russell Buffalino. Though, it is Al Pacino’s magnificent, arguably career best turn as Jimmy Hoffa that deserves the most plaudits. In a film with his fellow masters such as De Niro and Pesci, he steals the spotlight from just about every one of them.

With the three leading men, all on outstanding form, there’s an excellent group of supporting characters to give them capable support. Stephen Graham’s mobster underling, who is definitely not afraid to offer a piece of his mind during meetings. Likewise for Ray Romano’s hilarious turn as a Buffalino family lawyer. On the other hand, there are a number of supporting characters who are criminally underutlised. The is best exemplified by Anna Paquin, as one of Sheeran’s daughters, especially as there was scope to explore her character in considerably more detail.

Coming in at just under three and a half hours, there’s extra pressure for a film of that length to hold the audience’s attention and justify that run-time. With his trusted editor Thelma Schoonmaker once again by his side, she ensures that the film is riveting enough to hold the audience’s attention. Though it’s necessary to help set the latter parts of the film, the first act of the film does take its time to get into its stride. Though, once the years have gone by and the endgame gradually comes into view, the thrills never let up once we arrive at the second and, especially the third act. Given that this is the shady underworld of the mob, violence is almost certainly commonplace. However for the purposes of the story, Scorsese deploys a clever technique to let the audience know of the fate that befell some of these characters. Instead he utilises the on-screen violence sporadically, for maximum impact.

Given the large amount of time that’s covered, the passage of time is illustrated through an excellent combination of hair and make up, and the de-aging technology that has been popularised by the likes of the of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Though there’s one scene where it looks a bit iffy, it’s well done and effective to tell the ambitious nature of the story. For all those who may write off Netflix and its eligibility for the big prizes during award seasons, one thing is for sure, is that they aren’t afraid to spend the big money on their productions. Furthermore, when you’re bankrolling a high calibre director like Scorsese, you simply can’t put a price when it comes to telling riveting cinema, featuring stories that absolutely deserve to be seen on the largest screen possible.

With three impeccable leading performances at its core, under the masterful vision of the Godfather of the Gangster movie, The Irishman is an ambitious, enthralling, and poignant triumph for a legendary filmmaker still at the top of his game.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Big Sick (2017)

Image is property of FilmNation Entertainment, Apatow Productions and Amazon Studios

The Big Sick – Film Review

Cast: Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Ray Romano, Holly Hunter

Director: Michael Showalter

Synopsis: Charting the true story of Kumail and Emily as they fall in love, but their differences in culture prove to be a tricky test for their relationship, which is compounded when Emily is hospitalised…

Review: As the famous Johnny Cash song Ring of Fire goes, ” Love is a burning thing, and it makes a fiery ring.” It kind of goes without saying that meeting someone and falling in love with them can be delightful, but it can also be an experience that can be very testing for everyone. It won’t be all sunshine and rainbows all the time, there will be tricky times and it is in those times, that people can really show who they are, and why they just might be worth spending the rest of your life with.

Based on the real life story of Kumail Nanjiani (played by the real Kumail Nanjiani) a comedian in Chicago trying to make his name on the comedy circuit. He runs into Emily (Kazan) during a gig, and the two begin a romance, but for Kumail, there’s one small problem. His very traditional parents want to set him up in an arranged marriage with a Pakistani bride, but Kumail is not interested in any of that. Unfortunately as their relationship hits a snag, Emily falls gravely ill and is forced into a medically induced coma and with the help of Emily’s Mum and Dad (Holly Hunter and Ray Romano) the three of them sit by Emily’s bedside.

You would think in a film that is centred on someone falling into a coma, that the film’s script might be a bit bereft of laughter, but quite the contrary. The script written by Nanjiani and the real Emily V Gordon really packs plenty of laughter with some really funny jokes, especially considering one or two are quite dark in terms of the humour. Yet they don’t fall flat, and they almost always hit the mark and in quite some style too. Taking full advantage of modern technology to tell the story, the chemistry between our leads is very sincere and it feels almost like you’re watching the real lives of these people.

What’s more, as this clashing of cultures situation is becoming more and more common in our ethnically diverse world, the dilemma that Emily and Kumail find themselves in is likely a dilemma that many couples have felt at some point. In thia respect it feels that much more authentic. Thus when it is revealed that Emily has fallen ill, the audience shares Kumail’s concerns and you find yourself scared wondering if she’s going to make it.

Even after Emily is taken ill, the jokes do not stop, but this is thanks to Emily’s parents Terry and Beth. Romano plays Terry as your sort of lovable compassionate father who is funny and heartfelt all at the same time. Meanwhile Holly Hunter channels the fierce matriarchal spirit that she put into voicing Mrs Incredible (AKA Elastigirl) from the Incredibles so effortlessly. Though she doesn’t exactly take kindly to Kumail at first, to see the three of them go through their experience for the person they mutually care about so much is extremely heart-warming and they make an effective trio of comedy.

There are moments where the script does falter a little bit, particularly with a few of Kumail’s comedian friends that aren’t fleshed out at all really. It does make the film perhaps drag on for longer than it needs to be. Nevertheless, this film is a timely reminder of that even in a society that has become more and more diverse, controversy still surrounds cross-cultural relationships, which is ridiculous. Above all though, this film teaches that no matter what creed or colour you are, love knows no boundaries, and that should always be celebrated.

Very funny with a heartfelt and sincere romance, and top notch acting from all that keeps the film’s heart beating at a steady pace, whilst providing a refreshing new take on the rom-com genre.