Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman Is A Masterpiece In The Wrong Form

By TeeJay Small | Updated

Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman is, by all accounts, a fantastic film that delves into the inner workings of American organized crime and its significant impact on the nation’s politics over the course of the 20th century. Having said that, I haven’t rewatched the film since it first premiered in 2019, and I have no plans to ever sit and spend half a workday watching it in one sitting ever again. Despite the fact that the 3-hour and 29-minute-long movie is excellent, its status as a feature film, instead of a multi-episode mini-series, ultimately hinders The Irishman’s success.

Should Have Been A Mini-Series

Not long ago, Amazon Prime Video premiered its latest limited series, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, which runs eight episodes over the course of roughly 6.5 hours. I watched this entire series over the course of two days, meaning I theoretically had the free time to rewatch The Irishman twice if I really wanted to. Despite the fact that I ultimately wound up watching TV for hours at a time, the format of a television series, which splits its narrative into multiple chunks for simple consumption, provided me with a built-in opportunity to stop watching at any time and return at a later date.

Pacing Makes Breaks Difficult

If the show had been re-cut into a six-hour movie, I probably would never have watched it in the first place, no matter how badly I wanted to see Donald Glover flex his spectacular fashion sense. This is nearly the case for The Irishman as well. Technically, Netflix provides users with the opportunity to pause the lengthy film at any time they like, meaning you could self-impose seven separate viewing sessions of half an hour each, though doing so would likely botch the pacing of the film.

Smaller Chunks Of Entertainment Are Less Daunting

If The Irishman were re-cut into a mini-series consisting of half-hour or even full-hour long segments, purposefully divided with thoughtful editing choices, I’m willing to bet that more viewers would return to the star-studded classic. The best way to exemplify this psychological truth is to examine short-form video content platforms like TikTok and YouTube shorts.

How many times have you intended to spend five minutes watching TikToks, only to become sucked into the algorithm and trapped scrolling for hours at a time? There’s something psychologically daunting about committing to a full 3-hour watch like The Irishman with advanced notice, while accidentally stumbling into 3 hours of viewing seems like a basic aspect of daily life in our pervasive media environment. While it would no doubt butcher the quality of the film, The Irishman may garner more rewatches if it were sliced into 209 60-second shorts and disseminated over social media.

Netflix Turned Tarantino Into A Series

quentin tarantino

On some level, even Netflix understands this concept, as another long-form film, 2015’s The Hateful Eight, was re-cut into an extended mini-series for the platform. The series adds a full hour of additional content to the Quentin Tarantino-helmed film, though I’m more likely to spend four hours on the show than I am to spend three hours on the movie. If The Irishman were given the same treatment, I would easily have binge-watched the film several times over by now.

Scorsese Being Scorsese

killers of the flower moon

It seems clear that Martin Scorsese, in his infinite desire to embody the spirit of cinema, has no interest in re-cutting The Irishman or any of his other work. This is his prerogative as an artist, but his extended runtimes, such as the three-and-a-half-hour-long Killers of the Flower Moon, have an alienating effect on viewers around the world.