‘The Departed’ **** 110806
Movie Review (2006)

The work = ****
Martin Scorsese’s ‘The Departed’ is an unhappy film following a division of police officers and a gang of criminals. Set in Boston the movie shifts between Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) who is an undercover cop and Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) who can probably best be described as an undercover criminal. ‘The Departed’ has a very impressive cast of actors, including: Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Ray Winston and Jack Nicholson (not to mention DiCaprio and Damon.) Actually there’s also Anthony Anderson, Alec Baldwin, David O’Hara and well, you get the idea. With such a great cast, I kept saying that ‘The Departed’ was going to be really good or really bad... I am happy to report that ‘The Departed’ is a very good film and well worth seeing.

While it might sound contradictory to recommend a film that I describe as “unhappy,” trust me it is not. ‘The Departed’ flows on towards its violent conclusions, shifting from one gripping scene to another. I was surprised how wrapped up I became with film as it told the story of intertwining police and criminals in Boston. The two cops at the center of the film are both traitors to their own comrades and as such live with an almost constant, building, pressure. The undercover cop Costigan is working to take down Frank Costello’s (Nicholson) gang and at the same time Sullivan is reporting to Costello to subvert the police force.

DiCaprio is excellent as Costigan, a man who life gets more and more dangerous as he gets wrapped up tighter and tighter in the criminal world. Costigan is tough and strong but only human and as the tension builds he starts to break down, popping pills and drinking to try and keep control. Through director Scorsese DiCaprio has amassed three great films (including ‘The Departed,’) all with fine performances from the actor. It is strange that he would have to prove himself but I suppose having his career dinged by the sheer overwhelming popularity and success of ‘Titanic’ and ‘Romero + Juliet’ was enough to make some people forget he is a good actor. Watching ‘The Departed’ I totally rooted for Costigan and as he fought his way through the criminal underworld I was sucked into the story.

DiCaprio won me over and made me hooked on Costigan and at the same time Damon did an equally commendable job making me loath Sullivan. The film is clever in the way it introduces the two lead characters. They more or less start out as likeable characters but as they twist in their own undercover worlds Sullivan begins to be revealed as a true villain. Damon doesn’t overplay the role and he and Scorsese craft many great scenes but two in particular stood out to. One involve Sullivan listening to violence breaking lose over the police radio. It is to the credit of the filmmakers and Damon that there is a long scene of Sullivan alone in his office, listening helpless to what is unfolding. Anther involves a scene where Sullivan’s girlfriend shuts a door in his face. Scorsese keeps the scene going like the previous one I mentioned, showing Sullivan helpless outside the door. Both easily could have been cut but leaving them shows the level of weakness within Sullivan and strengthens the performance and the movie.

The rest of the cast does a very good job in the film and help to make to make it as engaging as it is. Alec Baldwin has some great little moments and Mark Wahlberg as Sgt. Dignam might stolen the whole film if he was onscreen more (as it is he does a great job.) Wahlberg’s performance is particularly of note simply because when I first saw him onscreen I didn’t like Dignam but by the end I was wishing he had more screen time (Wahlberg’s brother Robert has a role as FBI man Lazio and I swear another Wahlberg brother is in the background of a bar but I could be wrong about that.) Nicholson does what he does and is good as the embodiment of corruption. He plays the role as a man that seems as if evil has kept him along too long and is teetering on the edges of sanity.

In addition to the many performances in ‘The Departed’ one of the best things about the film is its run time. After a summer of overlong flics (‘Mission Impossible III,’ ‘The Da Vinci Code,’ etc.) here is a movie with a lengthy run time that deserves it and uses it well. I have seen the film twice and it flowed by both times and I became wrapped up in the story and the characters both times. Seeing the film a second time was a good idea for me too as I didn’t fully understand all the twists and turns in ‘The Departed.’ There’s a bunch of them and now I think I more or less understand everything but had I not seen the film the second time I’m not sure I would.

I mentioned that the film is unhappy and while it is not the most depressing film I have seen it is a downer. ‘The Departed’ shows what corruption does and how anyone who is wrapped up in it can be destroyed. I won’t give anything away but I will just say that I have to wonder what the city of Boston thought of the production after reading the script. (I’m guessing they weren’t too thrilled as much of the film was shot in New York.) It is also worth mentioning that ‘The Departed’ is a remake of a Hong Kong thriller called ‘Infernal Affairs’ (a film I keep meaning to but as of writing this review have not yet seen.) ‘The Departed’ is highly recommended.


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