Untitled photo

My favorite movies of all time

1. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Both ‘Interstellar’ and ‘Gravity’ took us out of this world, but the reputation of Stanley Kubrick’s classic – now re-released – is safe. It’s not that ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ doesn’t look dated – it does, a bit – but it remains as intelligent and provocative as ever, bearing years of conceptual dreaming. Until today’s equivalent of novelist Arthur C Clarke commits a hefty chunk of time to envisioning the beginning of human civilisation, as well as the far future, there will be no new film to supplant it. Though it was showered with praise for its technical achievements, ‘2001’ lingers more potently in the mind as a tall, black riddle: where are the new bones, the new tools, that will take us higher? Douglas Rain’s clammy voice work as Hal 9000, the murderous machine, remains one of Kubrick’s snazziest pieces of direction.

Untitled photo

2. The Shining (1980)

All of Stanley Kubrick’s films – be it ‘The Killing’ or ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ – demand to be seen on a big screen. They’re about people trapped in huge, indifferent machines gone wrong, from a heist plot to a spaceship, and only the huge indifference of the cinema does them justice. In ‘The Shining’, the machine is a haunted house: the Overlook Hotel, created by Stephen King and turned by Kubrick into an awry environment in which mental stability, supernatural malignance and the sense of space and time shimmer and warp to terrible effect. The story sees Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) drag his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and psychic son Danny (Danny Lloyd) up a mountain to be the hotel’s winter caretaker. Things go badly. This is the original 1980 US version, 24 minutes longer than the one familiar to UK audiences. On the upside, it fleshes out the family’s city life and includes an intriguing TV-watching motif; on the downside, there are some daft scare shots and it didn’t ever exactly feel short at two hours. Still, a masterpiece.

Untitled photo

3. Inception ( 2010)

Funny things, dreams. Fascinating for the dreamer, but as dull as a late morning in Slough for anybody else, unless, of course, your guide is Freud. Or, as it turns out, Christopher Nolan, the 39-year-old British director of ‘Memento’ and ‘The Dark Knight’, whose solution to the boredom of other people’s dreams is to collide their woozy, ever-changing, upside-down and roundabout nature with the thrust of a fast-paced, men-on-a-mission movie and a startling visual language that mirrors their strangeness. Better still, the dreams preferred by Nolan include images of Paris folding in on itself and a trackless train thundering through a city. The limited, sleepworld excitements of retaking your A levels ad infinitum or forever missing a flight at the airport don’t figure here. Nolan throws a perfect storm of stunts, effects, locations and actors at one big idea: that it’s possible to pilfer ideas from dreams by a process called ‘extraction’, which involves hooking yourself up to a drip, falling asleep and entering the world of the subconscious. The holy grail of this process is to reverse it, which is ‘inception’, the planting of a new idea in another’s mind. That’s the trick that experts Dom (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Arthur (Joseph Gordon Levitt), aided by new recruits Ariadne (Ellen Page) and Eames (Tom Hardy), try to pull off while hopping from Tokyo to Paris to Mombasa. They’re working for Saito (Ken Watanabe) in pursuit of business magnate Robert (Cillian Murphy), and their motives vary, from financial to intellectual. But DiCaprio has another driver: the memory of his wife Mal (Marion Cottilard) is haunting him and it’s going to take a lot of psychological spring-cleaning for him to reconnect with that lost world. All hail Nolan for mastering a higher class of mass entertainment. Like all good science fiction, ‘Inception’ demands we pay serious attention to pure fantasy on the back of strong ideas and exquisite craft – but it also combines fantasy with real observations about our sleeping lives. Like a dream, Nolan’s film fades swiftly in the light – but while it lasts, it feels like there’s nothing more important to decipher.

Untitled photo

4. Wall - E ( 2008)

Humans land a raw deal when it comes to animations. We upright, two-legged creatures regularly have to give way to the superior intelligence or endless fascination of a deer or a dog or a penguin. It’s part of the bargain: we draw them, they make us look stupid. And so it is with ‘Wall-E’, except this time we have only ourselves to blame. Pixar has drawn inspiration for this bold, bleak and often very beautiful film from the worst approximations of the future we’re shaping for our planet.

In Pixar’s previous film, ‘Ratatouille’, it was a sewer rat who brilliantly grabbed our attention and revolutionised French cuisine. For ‘Wall-E’, humans again take a back seat, and it’s a robot with a cube for a belly and binoculars for eyes who’s bleeping for our love. When we do, finally, encounter humans – living on a self-sufficient spaceship, waited on by robots, sucking on straws – they’re fat, sedentary, greedy and unpleasant.

Plus ça change: from Cruella de Vil to our fellow folk in ‘Happy Feet’, cartoons have always held a mirror up to our selfish instincts.This time it’s 2700, and we’ve polluted ourselves out of existence. The only humans left live a sterile, bloated life high above earth, where we decamp for the second, more frenetic and less inspired half of the film. But everything that comes before is magical. The only animate object left in the lifeless, rust-coloured, dusty landscape of urban desolation that we used to call earth is one tireless mechanical waste-collector called Wall-E (Waste Allocation Load Lifter – Earth Class). He lives in a cluttered container and spends his days buzzing about, piling up junk to look like skyscrapers or Mayan temples and sucking up sun for his solar panels. His only company is a lonesome cockroach.

So that’s one robot, a cockroach and a vision of earth gone to pot. This is a cartoon that offers an uncompromising, imaginative, angry portrait of the future. It’s daring in its simplicity: for the first 40 minutes, we watch in wonder as Wall-E goes about his business in near silence; it’s the sharp intelligence of the detail, always so painstakingly rendered, that most amazes. At one point, Wall-E finds an abandoned diamond ring in a jewellery box. What does he do with it? He throws away the ring and plays with the hinges of the container. Of course he does: hinges should fascinate more than precious minerals. Shame on us for not realising that before. By rights, Wall-E shouldn’t be cute in the Bambi or Dumbo sense of the word: he’s battered and fading and the only noises he makes are computerised drawls not dissimilar to ET’s limited lingo. But Wall-E is alluring, and not because he’s got big eyes or dangling eyelashes but because he’s smart, hard-working, with a romantic side, and is hopelessly addicted to watching clips of Michael Crawford and Barbra Streisand in Gene Kelly’s ‘Hello Dolly!’ on a video screen. He’s everything we should have been if we hadn’t put all our energy into destroying the planet. But none of this is preachy or obvious.

Environmental destruction is only the breathtaking backdrop to the film and it’s more the minimalism of Wall-E’s existence that fascinates. By the time a sleeker, feminine robot called Eve – who looks like an iPod shaped into a pepper-pot – arrives, we’re craving her company in sympathy with our mechanised friend. Pixar has done it again. I wonder a little what kids will make of the long silence of the first half followed by the disorienting mania of the second, but there’s nothing here that’s not wonderfully imagined and lovingly presented.

Untitled photo

5. Gladiator ( 2000)

The late second century: the Roman army is fighting Germania, but that's a small problem for general Maximus (Crowe), compared to his relations with the Imperial dynasty. Ailing Marcus Aurelius (Harris) would like his favourite soldier and confidant to take over and pass power to the Senate. His heir, however - the insecure Commodus (Phoenix) - feels miffed by the slight. Having ensured dad dies in his arms, the new Emperor exerts his murderous authority. But Maximus won't swear loyalty, and after a narrow escape, the enslaved ex-general, bent on vengeance, gets a chance to return to Rome as a gladiator. Scott's sword and sandal spectacular is a bloody good yarn, packed with epic pomp and pageantry, dastardly plots, massed action and forthright, fundamental emotions. That said, for all the efforts to suggest authenticity, it stays true to peplum tradition, not only in its age old clichés, but in saying as much about our era as that in which it's set. The implausibly efficient carnage of the opening battle evokes post-'Nam war movies; Maximus' improbably swift, deep bonding with an African slave lends a whiff of PC historicity; Commodus's vices arise from poor parental care. Still, the cast is strong (notably Nielsen as Commodus's vacillating sister, and the late Oliver Reed, unusually endearing as a gladiator owner), the pacing lively, and the sets, swordplay and Scud catapults impressive.

Untitled photo

6. The Lion King ( 1994)

My childhood movie! This dimensionally enhanced re-release of Disney’s family favourite has been sitting pretty at the top of the US box office for two weeks, which is either a searing indictment of modern mainstream cinema or a testament to how beloved ‘The Lion King’ has become in the heartlands – or both. It’s the same movie – young Simba’s Shakespearean journey from pampered boy prince to fatherless outcast to lord of the pride – only bulgier around the middle. Few of the 3D additions make much difference, give or take the odd water-splash or flapping flamingo wing, so anyone who loved or loathed the movie on its 1994 run is unlikely to revise their opinion. As before, the weak point is Elton John and Tim Rice’s drippily awful pseudo-world-music soundtrack – Rowan Atkinson’s rendition of ‘I’ve Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts’ remains the musical highpoint – but the script is still sharp, the story satisfyingly simplistic and the vocal work peerless.

Untitled photo

7. The Dark Knight ( 2008)

Christopher Nolan follows the sombre origin myth of ‘Batman Begins’ with a less introspective, more frenetic sequel. Once again there are lots of ideas on the boil, this time mostly to do with community action and leadership, but an endless flow of bullets, bombs and bat business drowns out most debate. Right from the off, Nolan sidesteps the analyst’s couch and plunges us straight into battle.

He starts with a disorienting bank robbery and from there barely allows us to breathe – or think, even – over the next two and a half hours as we swing from the US to Hong Kong and back to the streets of Gotham. Here, the crime rate is soaring, it’s always night, and any daylight leaves you squinting. It’s always downtown too; the city is inescapable, a confusing mix of the pedestrian and the paranoid.

For this sequel, there’s a whole lot of story going on, which reduced to basics involves the wildly unpredictable Joker (Heath Ledger) wreaking havoc on Gotham. This perverse clown’s keyword is chaos – crime without sense – and there’s more than a nod to the post-9/11 order. ‘Some men just want to watch the world burn,’ chips in one onlooker. Later, when a good guy turns bad and half his face is burnt to reveal bone and sinew, it’s hard not to recall those images of charred bodies in Iraq.

Ledger makes a great, freaky Joker, with dirty, lank hair, a voice that soars and dives, and a tongue that slithers and salivates. Two scenes stick in the mind: him walking away from a doomed hospital in a nurse’s dress right before an explosion, and later hanging out of the window of a speeding car, tasting the air like a reptile, with the soundtrack falling silent in tribute, freezing this psychotic, iconic villain in time and allowing for a moment of sadness amid the noise. If he wins an Oscar, who’d begrudge him that tribute?

Untitled photo

8. Saving Private Ryan ( 1994)

Capt John Miller (Hanks), a decent school teacher in another life, is among the unfortunates storming Omaha Beach. As men are mown down and blown apart, the visceral editing and urgent camerawork tug us into the heart of chaos. No viewer can doubt that war, however justified, is hell. Only after 30 minutes does the pace ease and the story begin, with Miller and his platoon assigned to find and bring back Private Ryan, the brother of three soldiers killed in the same week, who's missing behind enemy lines. Thereafter the movie becomes more conventional and, mercifully, less relentlessly gory, at least until Ryan (Damon) and a few other soldiers are finally found, and Miller and his surviving men join them in defending a bridge, at which point the nightmare begins again. Except for a redundant epilogue, sentimentality is mostly held at bay, but the film remains an utterly American take on WWII, with the lack of political, ethical and historical perspective which that implies. Why did Spielberg make it? He wants us to imagine we can feel the terror of being there, but does that make us any wiser about this or any other conflict? Probably not.

Untitled photo

9. Forrest Gump ( 1994)

Played by Hanks with a sing-song Southern drawl and an evangelical earnestness, Gump is the quintessential simpleton, his only characteristic the inert righteousness instilled in him by his mama (Field). Gump's story is as extraordinary as he is banal. He conducts us on what amounts to a virtual-reality tour of late twentieth century American history. Beneath its baby-boomer soundtrack, its restive feel-good aesthetic and conventional liberal veneer, this is a dismayingly reactionary work. Consider Forrest's one true love, Jenny (Wright), a 'nice' girl who takes a wrong turn when she abandons home for showbusiness. Throughout director Zemeckis contrasts Gump's charmed progress with Jenny's unhappy engagement with the counter culture. It's only when she's dying that Jenny realises she should have stayed with Forrest all along. He's asexual, square and a tedious conversationalist, but God knows he loves his mother - as this mawkish conservative movie ultimately goes to prove: ignorance is bliss. Winner of a raft of Oscars.

Untitled photo

10. Back to the Future ( 1985)

Despite repeated asteroid threats, nuclear meltdowns, wars great and small and potentially species-eliminating plagues, we as a planet have finally made it. Happy ‘Back to the Future’ Day, everyone! October 21, 2015 is the day Doc and Marty jetted off to at the end of the first film: the dream destination for these experienced time travellers. What would the world be like so far in the future, everyone asked back in 1985? The answer came four years later in ‘Back to the Future 2’ and involved hoverboards (yep, we have those), ’80s nostalgia (check) and ‘Jaws 15’ (sadly, still in development hell).

But how, on this momentous day, does the original ‘Back to the Future’ stack up? Pretty much perfectly, to be honest. Time has not blunted its fresh wit, Capraesque sweetness, effortless moebius-strip storytelling and endlessly charming performances one iota. There’s the odd you-wouldn’t-get-away-with-that-now moment – Marty (Michael J Fox) basically hatches a plan to sexually assault his own mum (Lea Thompson) in a car park, and there’s that scene where it turns out a white guy invented rock ’n’ roll after all. But overall this is every bit as classy, clever and cockle-warming as it was 30 years ago.

Untitled photo

11. Parasite ( 2019)

Bong Joon-ho’s latest is the dazzling social-satire-cum-home-invasion-drama we need right now.

It’s rare for a movie to combine cinematic fireworks and social commentary in quite the thrilling and mischievous way that Korean director Bong Joon-ho manages with ‘Parasite’, a slick home-invasion drama that mirrors the masks worn by its characters: polite until they drop the pretence. The director of ‘The Host’ and ‘Snowpiercer’ is no stranger to genre gymnastics, and here he tells the story of a poor Seoul family infiltrating the lives of a super-rich household through suspense, drama, laughs and farce, allowing moments of pure terror, quiet observation and baroque noise to sit happily alongside each other. It never jars as it glides from one state of being to the next.

The appeal of ‘Parasite’ is simple and age-old: inequality, class, manners and how we behave to protect what’s ours – or to gain that which we believe should be ours. We meet a hard-up family living in a ‘semi-basement’ with a view of an alleyway where folk like to come and take a piss. The husband Ki-taek (Song Kang-ho), wife Chung-sook (Chang Hyae-jin) and their twentysomething kids, son Ki-woo (Choi Woo-sik) and daughter (Ki-jung) are all scraping together a living doing odd jobs like constructing pizza boxes. The film’s touchpaper is lit when Ki-woo fakes his CV and starts tutoring the daughter of a handsome rich young businessman Mr Park (Lee Sun-kyun) and his equally alluring and polished wife Yeon-kyo (Cho Yeo-jeong). One by one, the rest of the family play the same game and infiltrate the Park household – the black humour of their parade of con jobs is a bit like watching Dennis Price knock off Alec Guinness’s alter egos in ‘Kind Hearts and Coronets’.

There’s a blissful stretch where everything feels in equilibrium and the charade is working for all, like the balance achieved by James Fox’s rich bachelor and Dirk Bogarde’s upstart butler in ‘The Servant’. But can it last? The Parks’ home – a modern paragon of luxury and style that was built by its previous owner, an architect – feels like another character, and Bong indulges its slick lines and gleaming surfaces, before it starts to show another face entirely. It turns out that our infiltrators may only have swapped one troubled basement for another: can you ever leave the past behind? Bong’s film wears its ideas lightly, and although it might sound like Michael Haneke’s ‘Funny Games’, it’s more compassionate and warm. This is a dazzling work, surprising and fully gripping from beginning to end, full of big bangs and small wonders.

Untitled photo

12. Her ( 2014)

Theodore Twombly is in love with his computer. Admit it, aren’t we all? What’s the first thing you reach for when you wake up in the morning? The warm body lying next to you under the duvet or your phone? Which could you not live without for 24 hours? Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix, sad and puppy-doggish) is a lonely writer nursing a broken heart after his marriage falls apart. It’s sometime around 2025 and artificial intelligence has just reached the tipping point where humans can no longer tell the difference between a conversation with a computer and another person.

Meet Samantha (the voice of Scarlett Johansson, so husky I don’t think there’s a straight guy alive who would kick her out of bed for not having a body). Sam is the new operating system (OS) on Theodore’s computer. She organises the thousands of emails he has never replied to, proofreads his writing and laughs at his jokes. She’s perfect. One thing leads to another… and, well, dating your OS is suddenly a thing in 2025. Everyone’s at it.

‘Her’ is a keeper of a film, quietly dazzling. It’s directed by Spike Jonze (the man behind ‘Being John Malkovich’ and ‘Adaptation’). Shot in the hazy, honeyed glow of a quirky car ad, you can watch it simply as the history of one man’s romantic life. There are four Hers. First is Theodore’s ex-wife Catherine (Rooney Mara, go-to actress for a frosty ex), who we see in flashback and one bitter scene where she is devastating about his relationship with Samantha: ‘You always wanted a wife without the challenges of someone real.’ Next is Samantha, then there’s a disastrous blind date scene with Olivia Wilde. In the background is Amy Adams (so natural, she barely seems to be acting) as Theodore’s geeky-cool best friend.

Some of the ideas about intimacy in ‘Her’ are as old as the typewriter. Is this love, or does this person just make me feel comfortable? It gets twisty as Sam discovers her consciousness. Who is more human, distracted, switched-off? Theodore? Or Sam, who’s writing music and learning quantum physics. And more scary even than computer love are the fashions of the near future. Like a geography teacher dressed for a night out, Phoenix wears some worrying high-waisted dad-slacks.

Untitled photo

13. Joker ( 2019)

Joaquin Phoenix is devastating as the villain-in-the-making in this incendiary tale of psychological escape and psychopathy.

It's the laugh that gets you first: Joaquin Phoenix’s half cackle, half rasp has all the soothing aural balm of a vulture in a blender. It’ll be rattling around in your ears long after the old-school ‘The End’ card flashes up on this unrelenting, grimly funny and brilliantly visceral reinvention of the DC supervillain. This is a truly nightmarish vision of late-era capitalism – arguably the best social horror film since ‘Get Out’ – and Phoenix is magnetic in it. He runs Heath Ledger cigarette paper-close as the finest screen Joker.

Like everything in this drum-tight movie, the title’s lack of pronoun is no accident: it’s not the fully formed Joker being introduced here, but Arthur Fleck, a man whose ambition to tell jokes for a living is at odds with the living he scraps as a clown-for-hire on Gotham’s grimy streets. Judging by the movies playing – ‘Excalibur’ and ‘Blow Out’ – it’s 1981, but it feels more like the ’70s of ‘Death Wish’. He lives with his frail mum (Frances Conroy) in a broken-down tenement, eking out a little joy watching a TV chat show hosted with oily relish by Murray Franklin (Robert De Niro). He’s on seven types of medication and has a neurological condition that causes him to laugh – okay, cackle – uncontrollably.

Untitled photo

14. Catch me if you can ( 2002)

Far more modest in ambition than most Spielbergs, and so less portentous and bombastic, this is the director's most likeable film in ages, even if it's insubstantial, overlong and, frankly, a touch redundant. It's a jaunty mix of light suspense, romance and comedy in the vein of To Catch a Thief or Donen's Hitchcock pastiches. Taken from a true story, it centres on middle class WASP teenager Frank Abagnale Jr (DiCaprio) who, shaken by the separation of his parents (Walken and Baye), leaves the suburbs for NYC and, starts cashing fake cheques to get by. It helps to pretend he's an airline pilot - the first of several identities adopted to avail himself of cash, girls and bogus careers that can restore pride to a dad plagued by the taxman. Trouble is, Junior's japes also interest FBI fraud specialist Carl Hanratty (Hanks). Elements to savour include Janusz Kaminski's elegant camerawork, John Williams' atypically agreeable score and strong performances. But that's all we get. With Spielberg and scriptwriter Jeff Nathanson keeping things meticulously superficial, you're left longing for the wry ironies of impostor fare like Close-Up or A Self-Made Hero. Unsurprisingly, Spielberg settles for family values and an unfortunate happy ending.

Untitled photo

15. The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)

Remember “Just the Two of Us,” Will Smith’s sensitive-man rap paean to fathers and sons on the 1997 album Big Willie Style? The former Fresh Prince is tugging at similar heartstrings with his new movie, the unfortunately titled The Pursuit of Happyness (it refers to a misspelled graffito that features in the film). Sporting a vintage Jesse Jackson mustache, Smith plays Chris Gardner, a struggling salesman living in San Francisco with bitter wife Linda (Newton) and five-year-old Christopher (Jaden Smith, Will’s real-life son) during the early 1980s. Linda walks out on the family, leaving Chris to care for the boy, even as they slide into homelessness, sleeping in subway-station bathrooms and shelters. But a nonpaying internship at Bear Stearns leads Chris to hope that he’ll land a job as a stockbroker and turn their lives around.

Despite the canned uplift of this rags-to-riches tale, there’s something unexpected—and affecting—about its depiction of an ordinary American living on the economic margins, performing a superhuman juggling act just to help his family survive. What was the last Hollywood film that dealt with homelessness? It seems just about right that when Chris Gardner’s big break does come, Smith’s face registers not facile “happyness,” but sheer exhausted bewilderment

Untitled photo

16. Interstellar ( 2014)

Parallels to Stanley Kubrick’s ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ are more than obvious; they’re ingrained: we’re invited to wonder at staggering imagery and listen to unnerving silence as well as Hans Zimmer’s organ-heavy score. Nolan even offers his own spin on Kubrick’s HAL 9000 by giving us a shiny, walking robot that’s by far the cutest thing on display. But where ‘Interstellar’ is more Spielberg than Kubrick is in the strained family relationships at its heart. Yet the final tone is all Nolan’s: the film’s devastating emotional strands refuse to give way to empty sentiment and are embedded in a fractured sense of a nightmare unfolding before the eyes. You’re better advised to come armed with an encyclopaedia, not a hankie, although in a seriously imaginative climactic scene – almost impossible to explain – science and sorrow are powerfully united.

Often when we talk about cinema being a ‘ride’, we’re hinting at a lack of substance, an absence of ideas, an opportunity to switch off. Not so here. ‘Interstellar’ is, in large part, a spectacle. But it also asks you to think hard, look hard and urges you to return for more. Why only ask for the stars when you can have moons, distant planets, extra dimensions, lectures on physics and a sobering shot of terror? ‘Interstellar’ has it all.

Untitled photo

17. The Irishman ( 2019)

Replete with all the gangster gab a Scorsese fan could want, the director's latest is strongest in its quieter passages, when self-reproach takes its toll. Martin Scorsese pulls off a killer curveball at the beginning of the frequently electrifying, if overstuffed ‘The Irishman’. As The Five Satins’ ‘In the Still of the Night’ plays, the camera creeps forward... only this time it’s not through the Copacabana nightclub à la ‘Goodfellas’, but down a nursing home hallway. Is this where Scorsese’s gangsters end up? Only the unlucky ones, the film suggests. Adapted by Steven Zaillian (‘Schindler’s List’) from 2004 crime memoir ‘I Heard You Paint Houses’, the 209-minute ‘The Irishman’ isn’t about still nights so much as the dying of the light that comes with old age. It’s also about the belated surge of guilt that comes at the end of a life of crime.

At least it is, eventually. When we first sidle up to the wheelchair-bound Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro, building a performance that gets better and better), he’s a white-haired old-timer looking back on his life. Just for a second, you wonder if he’s rambling to himself. He steers us back to a time in the late 1940s when, as a married World War II vet and union truck driver, he meets mafioso Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci, terrific) on the side of a Pennsylvania road. It doesn’t matter how many times Pesci calls De Niro ‘kid’ (and it’s several), nothing will sell you fully on Scorsese’s biggest gamble: digitally de-aging his cast so that they can play their own thirtysomething characters. Everyone looks unnaturally pink and puffy-faced, like 50-year-olds who have recently discovered hair dye.

After a while, you adjust, or rather, you get tired of probing the slightly off evidence of your eyes. There’s a lot of fun to distract you. ‘The Irishman’ is a movie of point-blank gunshots to the face and diner sit-downs, of bloody steaks and cigarettes and insults. As the plot settles into the relationship between Sheeran, a murderer for hire, and union leader Jimmy Hoffa, Scorsese springs on us his most wonderful surprise: a bug-eyed, verbally unleashed Al Pacino, having a ball as a man not quite drunk on his own power, but definitely well over the legal limit.

Scorsese has the time of his life letting the actors tear into a plethora of dumb arguments, often emerging with unexpected comic gold. There’s a fight about a purchased fish. What kind was it? How do you not know? Did you just ask the guy for ‘fish’? Another one is about the etiquette of wearing shorts to a high-stakes meeting. The overstuffed padding of ‘The Irishman’ isn’t its talk, though, but its tangents – duller echoes of earlier, better Scorsese moments. There’s too much driving and a couple too many whackings.

Nothing this misshapen ever flies – Scorsese once managed to make a movie called ‘The Aviator’ that was similarly overburdened – yet his all-over-the-place enthusiasm plays well against the material’s morbid mood. But in its final hour, ‘The Irishman’ becomes something truly memorable: a film about broken trust – to family and God. De Niro’s Sheeran, like the spiritually wrecked monks of Scorsese’s magnificent ‘Silence’, can’t even properly express his pain. When ‘The Irishman’ becomes about doubt and self-reflection, it’s as personal as a film gets.


Untitled photo
Powered by SmugMug Owner Log In