'The Irishman': The best way to watch the three and half hour gangster epic in bitesize chunks

Tom Beasley
Contributor
Al Pacino and Robert De Niro in Martin Scorsese's crime thriller 'The Irishman'. (Credit: Netflix)

Martin Scorsese’s latest gangster epic has finally arrived on NetflixThe Irishman is a gargantuan work of cinema, both in terms of its heavyweight ambition and its bum-numbing running time. In its full glory, the film runs for three and a half hours — a difficult ask for any bladder to endure.

The Irishman follows the life of mob hitman and Teamsters union official Frank Sheeran, with innovative digital de-ageing technology allowing Robert De Niro to play him over the course of around 60 years. The supporting cast includes Al Pacino as Teamsters leader Jimmy Hoffa and Joe Pesci as mafia boss Russell Bufalino.

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Obviously, the film is best enjoyed in its entirety and on the big screen, with Sheeran’s life unfolding in epic, uninterrupted fashion as Scorsese intended.

However, those watching via Netflix have the luxury of a pause button. Whether it’s simply to put the kettle on, or to split the unfurling narrative over several nights, here are the best times to pause the movie in bitesize chunks if you absolutely have to.

Minor The Irishman spoilers incoming...

To watch in two parts: Pause at 1hr 48mins

Anna Paquin in 'The Irishman'. (Credit: Netflix)

For those looking for a single pause point, it’s best to hold out for almost all of the first two hours of the movie, before the machinations of the final half of the story really kick into gear.

The scene you’re looking for involves Sheeran sitting alone in his home, watching a news report about a hit he just carried out. His daughter Peggy (Anna Paquin) walks into the room and views the broadcast in horror before leaving. If you pause when the camera pans back to De Niro at the table, it’s an ideal place to pick up the film again. From here, Scorsese cuts back to the framing narrative of the road trip which forms the backbone of the movie.

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This is an edit point that brings the first half of the movie to a conclusion on a moment of tension, as Sheeran’s real life and his mob life collide, poisoning his relationship with his family. Paquin’s role has been criticised for her lack of dialogue, but this scene shows just how much she can accomplish without words.

Pausing here allows you to finish your first stint on a high and gives you plenty of time to relax back into the story — including via an excellent comic scene involving Pacino and British star Stephen Graham — before the tense storytelling of the final hour gets moving in earnest.

To watch in three parts: Pause at 1hr 29mins and 2hr 23mins

'The Irishman'. (Credit: Netflix)

If you’re splitting The Irishman up into three chunks, then the first pause point to look out for occurs when a number of the main characters are gathered in a café. A news report reveals that John F. Kennedy has just been assassinated and we see a series of flags flying at half mast. That’s your cue to press the pause button on this moment of quiet contemplation.

This scene marks a turning point in The Irishman, where the unstoppable rise of Sheeran and his allies changes direction and becomes something of a fall from grace. Suddenly, the consequences of their actions begin to mount as the net closes in.

In order to get to this pause point, you just have to watch the first 90 minutes or so of The Irishman — the length of most movies. Then you’ll have to wait just under an hour to pause again, when Pacino’s Jimmy Hoffa takes Paquin’s Peggy to dance at a party. Scorsese holds the camera on an enigmatic close-up of De Niro’s face watching them. That’s when you press the button.

Robert De Niro in 'The Irishman'. (Credit: Netflix)

This is the last opportunity to take a break before the third act of The Irishman really gets moving, cutting back to the road trip narrative in order to get the climactic action started. From this moment, the tension escalates continuously until the final scenes bolster the movie’s sense of contemplation. The rest of the movie is Scorsese at his mob movie best.

Read more: Scorsese recreated Goodfellas to practice de-aging tech

So there you have it. Whatever your viewing preference, three and a half hours of vintage Scorsese is sitting waiting in your Netflix account right now, ready for your viewing pleasure.