While official reviews remained under embargo, many critics took to Twitter to share positive initial impressions of Martin Scorsese’s film, which stars Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Al Pacino and Harvey Keitel.
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Eric Kohn at Deadline sister site IndieWire compared it to “a greatest hits album from a master of the medium. Yes, that’s a positive.” Glenn Kenny of The New York Times tweeted that the 209-minute film is “GoodFellas strained through Silence, but even that assessment is [too] pat. [Three hours] of All American Banality of Evil capped by emotionally devastating acknowledgement of My Life as a Cipher.”
Vanity Fair critic K. Austin Collins said the film is “good. I laughed a lot.” While the GoodFellas comparisons are inevitable, given the terrain of the story and the re-teaming of Scorsese, De Niro and Pesci, Collins added, “this is ultimately a movie about the mortality of everyone in it, to say nothing of everyone they’re playing, to say nothing–nothing of the mortality of the guy who made it. Suffice it to say, it hits differently.”
Addressing the press from the stage at Lincoln Center, Scorsese, producer Jane Rosenthal, De Niro, Pacino and Pesci discussed the film’s winding journey to the screen. Scorsese said the film struggled for years to get financial backing after studios passed on the pricey epic drama. “Ultimately, it was Ted Sarandos,” content chief at Netflix, along with his executive team, who proved to be “creatively attuned to us.”
Netflix’s involvement, Scorsese said, makes the project “an interesting hybrid.” The task for the filmmakers, he elaborated, was to discover “how you balance between what a film is and what is viewed at home and in a theater or both. We’re in an extraordinary time of change.”
After its New York Film Festival unspooling, The Irishman will open in select theaters on November 1 for a brief Oscar qualifying run before hitting Netflix on November 27.
Netflix held talks over the summer with major theater chains like AMC, Regal and Cinemark to explore whether The Irishman could play in a theatrical window shorter than the conventional 90 days, but no deal was reached. That means a more limited theatrical run for the film, which is part of the latest wave of features from the streaming giant that have been disrupting movie models since the service upended television. Oscar attention and considerable financial resources have kept Netflix in the center of the awards conversation with films like last year’s Roma even though they have riled up many stakeholders partial to the status quo.
With a reported budget of $160 million, The Irishman is also noteworthy for its use of “de-aging” effects. Scorsese said the process, which enables the film to show De Niro’s character at ages from his 30s to his 80s, required particular attention during the shoot. He would remind his star — who hasn’t appeared in one of his films since Casino in 1995 — that he had to rise from a chair as a man of 49 years old, for example. “It isn’t just about noses and computer imagery, it’s about posture, it’s about movement, it’s about clouding the eyes,” he said.
Rosenthal and producer Emma Tillinger Koskoff laid out some numbers for the shoot, which they said took 108 days to complete. In all, its 309 scenes used 117 locations and nine cameras, including a special one that effects house ILM used for the de-ageing process.
Pacino, amazingly, has never before appeared in a Scorsese film. He said he fell into a groove with his castmates despite the fact that formal rehearsals were not in the offing. “I don’t like reading scripts,” he said. “It is the gamut these days that you don’t rehearse. But it’s alright with these guys. You just throw things around.”
Below is a brief clip of one portion of the press conference, featuring a non-take from Pesci reminiscent of his two-second Oscar acceptance speech (“It’s my privilege”) for Goodfellas. Check back on Deadline throughout the evening for additional reports from the premiere.