THE IRISHMAN (15) Four stars

In the opening scene of director Martin Scorsese's blood-soaked 1990 thriller GoodFellas, Ray Liotta's low-level mobster waxes lyrical in voiceover about the irresistible allure of a life of crime.

"To be a gangster was to own the world," he purrs.

His words resonate throughout Scorsese's exhaustive and exhausting return to the underworld with leading men Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci, which transplants the toxic masculinity from New York to the mean streets of Philadelphia.

Stephen Zaillian, Oscar-winning screenwriter of Schindler's List, confidently plunders Charles Brandt's true-crime book I Heard You Paint Houses to recount an epic tale of brotherhood, which culminates in the disappearance of labour union leader Jimmy Hoffa in July 1975.

De Niro snags the melodic voiceover here, delivering expertly polished one-liners - "Usually three people can keep a secret only when two of them are dead" - with his trademark growl.

His long-awaited on-screen reunion with Pesci lights the fuse on a dazzling display of verbal fireworks.

Al Pacino scorches every frame as bullying Hoffa, who refuses to cede control of the Teamsters - "This is my union!" - and pays a sickeningly high price for his hubris.

Scorsese's long-time editor Thelma Schoonmaker overcharges our patience with a running time - three-and-a-half hours - that feels almost as bloated as some of the titular heavy's lifeless victims.

Second World War veteran Frank Sheeran (De Niro) earns a tidy wage for his family as a meat truck delivery driver.

In good time, he catches the eye of Pennsylvania crime boss Russell Bufalino (Pesci), who utilises the former soldier's skill-set to eliminate rivals, which Frank refers to as "painting houses" by virtue of the lurid red splatter on walls

Frank does Russell's bidding and earns the nickname The Irishman as he tosses one firearm after another into the river.

"If they ever send divers down there, they can arm a small country," quips Frank.

The Irishman wins the respect of kingpin Angelo Bruno (Harvey Keitel) and becomes a close ally of the second most powerful man in America after the president: Jimmy Hoffa (Pacino).

However, Frank cannot charm his daughter Peggy (Anna Paquin), whose silent disapproval creates a chilly divide between the generations.

The Irishman invests a sizeable chunk of the reported 150 million US dollar budget in distracting digital trickery to de-age the septuagenarian cast.

Their youthful sheen eventually gels with Scorsese's directorial brio and impeccable period detail, which marks the film as a frontrunner for Oscar recognition.

De Niro, Pesci, Pacino et al posture and snarl through decades of fraternal bonding with predictable intensity and fury.

When bruised egos collide and sinews throb in claustrophobic close-up, we can convince ourselves that the film's excessive grandeur is tolerable.

THE AERONAUTS (PG) Three stars

Inspired by a true story, The Aeronauts takes flight with a heavy cargo of dramatic licence to chart a high-altitude expedition, which pushes two emotionally driven souls to the upper limits of human endurance.

Director Tom Harper's visually stunning odyssey is loosely tethered to Richard Holmes's 2013 book Falling Upwards: How We Took To The Air, which pays tribute to brave pioneers of the ballooning community.

Scriptwriter Jack Thorne focuses on one notable entry - the record-breaking 1862 ascent of James Glaisher and Henry Coxwell - and replaces one of the men with a fictional female adventurer, whose daredevil actions are thrillingly realised by a stunt woman on a balloon in mid-flight.

Harper repeatedly smacks our gobs with vertiginous thrills and spills including a knuckle-whitening encounter with a raging storm that spins the balloon wildly out of control.

On a technical level, the film soars and George Steel's breath-taking cinematography is particularly captivating on a giant IMAX screen.

However, characters are emotionally malnourished despite the best efforts of Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne to recapture their Oscar-winning on-screen chemistry from The Theory Of Everything.

James Glaisher (Redmayne) is a meteorologist in Victorian London, who believes the secret to predicting weather patterns lies 30,000 feet above the earth.

While colleagues in the scientific community pour scorn on his ideas, James is compelled to prove his theory by attempting a record-breaking hot air balloon flight captained by Amelia Wren (Jones).

She is the wife of a famous pilot, Pierre (Vincent Perez), who lost his life two years earlier during an ill-fated ascent.

Haunted by Pierre's self-sacrifice, Amelia accompanies James in a wicker basket bearing a motto from Ovid - Caelum certe patet, ibimus illi - which translates as: "surely the sky lies open, let us go that way".

Far below, James's elderly parents (Sir Tom Courtenay and Anne Reid) and his good friend John Trew (Himesh Patel) await news of the expedition.

As the balloon passes 12,000 feet, James and Amelia are dazzled by swarms of butterflies fluttering around the basket.

Soon, reduced oxygen levels and the plummeting temperature threaten theirs wellbeing.

As the altimeter records 30,000 feet, Amelia prepares to clamber atop the bulging silk canopy to forcibly remove ice from a release valve, which should allow the balloon to descend safety back to terra firma.

The Aeronauts gender-flips historical fact to provide Harper's picture with a gutsy heroine a la Sandra Bullock in Gravity, who refuses to surrender her fate to the laws of physics.

Immersive sound design heightens tension at key moments as Jones and Redmayne chew delicately on the script's meagre scraps.

They convince us to care about their airborne trailblazers while a dizzying whirl of digital effects rages around them.


A silver-tongued swindler believes he has found the perfect target in director Bill Condon's deceptive thriller, which has been adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher from Nicholas Searle's novel.

Seventy-eight-year-old widow Betty McLeish (Dame Helen Mirren) takes the plunge and posts her profile on the Distinction Dating website, in the hope of sparking romance with a nice gentleman.

Career con artist Roy Courtnay (Sir Ian McKellen) is matched with Betty and meets her in a restaurant, where he discovers that the distinguished lady is worth nearly three million pounds.

Sharing this news with his long-time buddy Vincent (Jim Carter), Roy pledges to steal Betty's fortune by worming his way into her affections.

As he grows close to Betty, she opens her heart.

"You're the only person on this planet who makes me feel like I'm not alone," she coos.

However, Betty's grandson Steven (Russell Tovey) becomes concerned that the relationship is moving too fast and urges extreme caution: "It's too soon to be getting so close to him!"

Faced with the prospect of missing out on a seven-figure pay day, Roy takes bold risks to pull off his deception.


Roland Emmerich, director of Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow, marshals a huge budget to dramatise the Battle of Midway, which would prove to be a turning point in the Second World War.

Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto (Etsushi Toyokawa), who serves as commander-in-chief of the Japanese Navy, co-ordinates a surprise attack on Pearl Harbour naval base on Hawaii.

In response, the Americans formally enter the Second World War and Lieutenant Commander Jimmy Doolittle (Aaron Eckhart) boosts morale by leading a daring raid on the Japanese mainland including Tokyo.

Consequently, Admiral Yamamoto escalates his plans to attack Midway Island in the Pacific, where the full might of the Japanese Navy clashes with American forces.

While Admiral Chester Nimitz (Woody Harrelson) oversees the defensive operation, aided by Lieutenant Commander Edwin T Layton (Patrick Wilson) and Commander Joseph Rochefort (Brennan Brown), brave men including dive bomber pilot Lieutenant Dick Best (Ed Skrein) fight in the air and on the water to repel the Japanese attack.

LUCE (15, 100 mins)

Released: November 8 (UK & Ireland, selected cinemas)

A teacher suspects her prize student might be hiding a shocking secret in a taut thriller directed by Julius Onah.

Luce Edgar (Kevin Harrison Jr) escapes from war-torn Eritrea to find safety in America with adopted parents Peter and Amy (Tim Roth, Naomi Watts).

They shower the boy with love and encouragement, and he blossoms at high school as an all-star athlete and gifted debater.

Fellow students and staff adore Luce, except for history teacher Harriet Wilson (Octavia Spencer), who discovered weed in the locker of his friend DeShaun (Brian Bradley) and contacted the police.

Ever since, Luce has nurtured a grudge against Harriet.

Out of the blue, Harriet contacts Amy and asks for a meeting, where she explains that she has found contraband in Luce's locker.

The teacher is also concerned about some of the views expressed in one of Luce's recent essays.

Amy discusses the matter with Peter and they debate how to tackle the issue with their adopted son.


1. Joker

2. Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil

3. The Addams Family

4. Terminator: Dark Fate

5. Doctor Sleep

6. A Shaun The Sheep Movie: Farmageddon

7. Abominable

8. Zombieland: Double Tap

9. Gemini Man

10. Sorry We Missed You

(Chart courtesy of Cineworld)