From Gangsters To Divorce, Here’s your Festive Netflix Viewing…by Tom Beasley

It feels odd to be writing this in the first week of November, but Merry Christmas to all of you. By the time this magazine lands on your doormat, you will almost certainly be firmly ensconced in the season of mince pies, pigs in blankets – pending Brexit-induced shortages – and trying to remember the lyrics to the only Slade song anybody remembers. Sorry Noddy.

One of the nice things about the Christmas period is the free time it often allows. Those of us who are lucky enough to get a reasonable amount of time off work in the dying days of December are presented with an opportunity to recharge and reflect on the year that has passed – or alternatively to sleep in until noon and spend the rest of the day consuming handfuls of Quality Street.

Among the many joys of that weird week between Christmas and New Year for me, as a film journalist and critic, is that it gives me the chance to catch up with some of the movies I’ve not had the opportunity to see throughout the year. Netflix, in particular, is home to at least a dozen new releases that I simply haven’t had the time to fit in while still seeing the many, many movies that are released into cinemas every week. It’s a hard life, I know.

With that in mind, I’d like to recommend two brand new Netflix releases that you can check out. Both are due to arrive on the streaming service well before Christmas, so they’ll be ready and waiting by the time the turkey has been stuffed.

The first is The Irishman. It marks the return to the crime thriller genre of director Martin Scorsese, who is the iconic filmmaker behind such classics as Goodfellas, Taxi Driver and more recently The Wolf of Wall Street. This new film features Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci together in a Scorsese picture for the first time since Casino in 1995 and also introduces the iconic Al Pacino, who has never worked with the director before. It’s very much the Avengers of gangster cinema, following De Niro as a mob hitman who becomes involved in corrupt union politics.

It’s based on a true story and spans decades, with innovative new technology used to allow the three main actors to play their characters over the course of around 60 years. The movie is an absolute masterwork from a director who has matured with his years and the story serves as a reflection on Scorsese’s own career in fiction form. It’s smart, sophisticated and absolutely thrilling. The epic running time of three and a half hours only helps with its epic scale. I’ve watched 90-minute movies that feel three times as long.

The other film I wanted to spotlight is something less obviously exciting – Noah Baumbach’s drama Marriage Story. It follows Star Wars actor Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson as a couple going through a divorce, which starts amicably but quickly becomes messy when lawyers get involved and buttons are pushed. It’s a masterful movie about people who love each other, but find their humanity gradually dismantled and hollowed out by the hostility of the legal system. If there’s any justice, it’ll clean up at the Oscars. Of course, there isn’t, and so Joker will probably end up winning everything in exhausting fashion.

Regardless of awards success, the two films I’ve mentioned in this column are must-see viewing for the festive period. The week between Christmas and New Year is one of almost entirely sedentary existence and, as far as I’m concerned, there’s no better way to spend sedentary time than by disappearing into the world of cinema.

© 2019 Tom Beasley

Tom Beasley is a freelance film journalist living just outside London and originally from Coventry. He can be reached at tomjbeasley@gmail.com.