There is a saying about the nature of a movie’s runtime: “The length of a film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder.” It’s a quote that is often attributed to Alfred Hitchcock, but it appears that another one of the great American filmmakers, Martin Scorsese, is basically telling you to hold it with his newest film, The Irishman.
The Irishman is a biographical mob movie about labor union official Frank Sheeran’s deal with the Bufalino crime family to allegedly smoke out Jimmy Hoffa stars some heavy hitters, many of whom are the usual Scorsese subjects: Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel, and Joe Pesci, to name a few. It also marks the first time Al Pacino has appeared in a Scorsese film. You’d think that the film’s star power (or at least De Niro’s “de-aged” face) would be the talk of the first official screening, which occurs at 3 P.M. on the opening day of the New York Film Festival, but the real hullabaloo concerning The Irishman has to do with its runtime.
The Irishman will clock in at 210 minutes, or three and a half hours, making it Scorsese’s longest film to date (and one of Netflix‘s longest, too). For comparison against some of the director’s previous films, Wolf of Wall Street was only three hours long, Casino was just two minutes shy of a three hour runtime, and Goodfellas was 147 minutes, or nearly two and a half hours. For comparison against some of the longest films in Hollywood history, the 1963 Elizabeth Taylor version of Cleopatra is 248 minutes (over four hours), Lawrence Of Arabia is 222 minutes, Gone With The Wind clocks in at 221 minutes, and The Ten Commandments is a cool 220 minutes.
If you thought the online reaction to Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood‘s 161 minute runtime was too much, just wait until you see what everyone is saying about The Irishman on Film Twitter, where people seem to be divided. Some have glibly remarked about how hungry they will get during the screening. Others are elated to get as much Scorsese as possible as the director enters his “late period.”
But how is watching a three and a half hour long Scorsese film such a task for anyone who has ever binged an entire season (or even just a few episodes) of any television series? Well, The Irishman, like a handful of “prestige” film’s on Netflix’s fall slate will be given a limited release in theaters first (November 1) before you can stream it (November 27, just in time for Thanksgiving). Some people take issue with the fact that not only do you have to sit through 210 minutes of this movie, you also have to do it in a theater. Like, with other beings that aren’t your roommate or your partner or your pet.
The general population’s wish to prioritize comfort and ever-shortening attention spans over seeing a long movie by one of Hollywood’s most beloved directors is not surprising in the least. But you think three and a half hours in a dark movie theater with strangers you’ve never met is bad? Try sitting through a film studies screening in a university auditorium where they don’t even let you bring in snacks (you have to smuggle them in like you were a member of the mob yourself).