The Departed

2007-04-14 12:11

In the South Boston underworld, no-one inspires more fear or respect than Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson). Costello is the ruthless kingpin of the city’s most feared criminal gang – a gang that the Massachusetts State Police are determined to smash. When young Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) joins the Department, Chief Queenan (Martin Sheen) and Detective Dignam (Mark Wahlberg) immediately pick him as the man for the job. With his family’s criminal connections – the very connections he had been trying to escape – Costigan has all the credibility he needs to infiltrate the gang. What neither Queenan nor his colleague at special investigations, Captain Ellerby (Alec Baldwin), realise is that Costello is playing the same game. The rising star of their Department - Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) – is really Costello’s mole, and they have unwittingly set Billy Costigan on a collision course with him.


It’s been a tough decade for Martin Scorsese fans. Sure, he’s been denied the Oscar twice for a pair of unmistakably brilliant films, but that’s not really the issue. For all his virtuosity, Scorsese hasn’t made an unashamedly entertaining film since Goodfellas or possibly Casino. All that has changed with The Departed, a film as enjoyable as it is masterful.

Not that sprawling epics like Gangs of New York and The Aviator aren’t enthralling enough in their own way, it’s just that they require a certain effort, even a dedication, to tackle. There’s no such hesitation with The Departed. Over two hours long and yet it flies by – never once stopping for a breath. This is the kind of film people will want to watch over and over again, to memorise the quotes and revel in the many unforgettable scenes.

And yet, for all its popcorn-movie appeal, The Departed is also a work of technical and creative genius. Teaming up with many of the same Oscar winning crew as he used on Gangs and The Aviator, Scorsese has crafted a film as beautiful to look at as it is thrilling to watch. And while elements like cinematography, editing and production design are all flawless, all of them remain invisible unless you’re specifically looking for them. This is old school filmmaking at its best – it won’t let anything get in the way of the story.

Compared to the scope and complexity of his last few films, The Departed has an extremely simple story. Adapted from a Hong Kong thriller called Infernal Affairs (Wu Jian Dao), there’s nothing revolutionary about this tale of loyalty and betrayal. Like many Hong Kong films, it appeals unselfconsciously to the mythic and the archetypal. It deals in a currency of honour and fate, without resorting to the campy irony that Hollywood feels compelled to heap on such old-fashioned values. And yet, in Scorsese’s hands, it becomes something much more – a framework in which to explore a trio of fascinating character studies.

Scorsese has a well-deserved reputation for getting the best out of his casts, and his two young leads are ample evidence of this. DiCaprio has never been better. He brings the same intensity to this role as his Oscar nominated turn in The Aviator, but with a subtlety and control that eclipses anything he has done previously. His scenes with Jack Nicholson are particularly challenging and, since he never skips a beat, particularly rewarding.

As for Damon, an actor that many critics long ago dismissed as a one trick pony, his performance is close to flawless. For a man so used to being cast as the charming hero, he plays the weasel with uncommon fluidity. Granted he can’t manage the same emotional resonance as DiCaprio, but he makes up for it with oily self-assurance and pinpoint timing.

But, despite how impressive the youngsters are, it’s Jack Nicholson who steals the show. Just when it looked like he had resigned himself to playing harmless old farts for the rest of his career, along comes a part like Frank Costello and reminds us of just how dangerous and seductive Nicholson can be. At times hilarious, at times unhinged, Nicholson seems to swagger through this movie without a care in the world but, watched closely, he is like a man coming up for air.

With all this star studded posturing going on it’s easy to forget how strong the rest of the supporting cast are. Few directors can attract the likes of Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, and Alec Baldwin to such small roles, and even fewer can coax these kinds of memorable performances out of a handful of lines. There’s literally not one weak performance in the film which, given that the cast runs into the dozens, is pretty extraordinary.

Brilliant or not, The Departed isn’t for everyone. This is violent, foul-mouthed stuff with almost no morally redeeming features. There’s an underlying nihilism to the film – a kind of self-containing, self-consuming fatalism that defies our hunger for meaning. The movie exists only to perpetuate its own ends – it has no universal significance.

And, in the end, so what? The Departed may not change the world, but it will certainly entertain it. After toiling over two self-conscious historical epics, Scorsese just wants to have some fun, and we are lucky enough to be invited along for the ride.

- Alistair Fairweather
Martin Scorsese lights up the screen with this enthralling tale of loyalty and betrayal set in Boston's brutal underworld. It's his most entertaining film since Goodfellas, not to mention his most brilliant.

Charmed 2006/12/30 12:04 AM
Brilliant.. .. is what sums up this movie! as the review says, not for everyone.
Alex 2007/01/03 8:57 AM
Tour de Force Massively enjoyable, yet also technically fantastic. Di Caprio gives what is probably the best performance of his life. Not for the squeamish, though
HILARIO 2007/01/06 2:24 PM
Paul 2007/01/06 3:17 PM
SUPERB I absolutely loved this movie - it was a 2 1/2 hr masterpiece. Scorsese's best ... If he doesn't win the Oscar this year, I give up. Leo was also superb - def. must win Best Actor. Unmissable!!
Julie 2007/01/10 10:45 AM
Excellent WOW, what a movie. Dark, eerie, funny, sad, action, love, etc. I have to agree that this is the best I have ever seen De Caprio - and how DOES Nicholson do it??? One minute you love him, the next you hate him, and then it starts all over again. The language was a bit much but I suppose it creates the mood of the movie. This was a fantastic movie that had me saying "What the...?" at least 5 times near the end. Sjoe...
Rory 2007/01/16 9:15 AM
OUTSTANDING Masterpiece, I just saw now that it was 150 mins long! It felt like an hour. Certainly the best movie of the year by far, and as for Di Caprio, I've never liked him much before, but he has really come of age. He was brilliant as was everyone. Alec Baldwin is fast becoming King of the cameos. A have to see movie at all costs. I'm going again.
Rory 2007/01/16 9:16 AM
OUTSTANDING Masterpiece, I just saw now that it was 150 mins long! It felt like an hour. Certainly the best movie of the year by far, and as for Di Caprio, I've never liked him much before, but he has really come of age. He was brilliant as was everyone. Alec Baldwin is fast becoming King of the cameos. A have to see movie at all costs. I'm going again.
didi 2007/01/17 9:11 PM
brilliant this is an absolutely wonderful movie not only does it some of the best actors that one can ever image, it is well constucted and put together and
Laurette 2007/01/24 9:07 AM
Unforgettable The best move I have seen in the last two years, and I have seen many. Martin Scorsese has once again excelled himself!! If he doesn't win an oscar then something is very wrong in Hollywood! Best actor award has to go to Leonardo DiCaprio!! He really blew me away. (pardon the pun)
Amanda 2007/01/24 9:25 AM
The Departed What a brilliant movie. I cannot believe that it is really De Caprio! He is just going from strenght to strength.Anybody who have not watched Black Diamond yet please go Leonardo De Caprio is brilliant in that one too.
Amanda 2007/01/24 9:26 AM
Brilliant What a brilliant movie. I cannot believe that it is really De Caprio! He is just going from strenght to strength.Anybody who have not watched Black Diamond yet please go Leonardo De Caprio is brilliant in that one too.
giselle 2007/01/24 3:33 PM
Anthea 2007/01/29 11:37 AM
Brilliant! This is one of the best movies I have seen in a while! (in this genre). The movie, although quite bloody and brutal, has so much more going on, that it surpasses many other movies in this camp. .....and I must agree with the other reviewers, Leonardo DiCaprio did it for me! Not being a fan (before!), I now see him in a totally different light - so impressive in this role!
Lukhanye Somtunzi 2007/02/11 5:02 PM
mind twister boring in the beggining, long but also wonderful, leaves your mind twisting and turning, needs to be watched again. 8/10
Jane Larson Smith 2007/02/18 7:41 AM
The Departed I saw all 5 Best Picture movies. Yes, they are all so different. However, Iwo and Babel are deep and moving; Little Miss Sunshine entertaining, funny and fresh; The Queen sensitive. The Departed, howbeit complicated as to the conflicting parties and lies, was hardly at a higher level than many TV cop shows. The ending was cheap and forgetable. Big Question Mark as to its inclusion as Best Picture.
fleming randall 2007/02/26 10:42 AM
the departed the language - we know that the language in this criminal / police world is bad...but does it have to feature so strongly in the movie to make it good ??? think limiting the filthy language would have made it a much greater movie.?? overplaying on bad launguage i think simply subtrated from this admittedly great movie.
Lauren 2007/02/26 12:59 PM
well deserved oscar Having avoided Leonardo DiCaprio's acting for a while before this film, I only went into the cinema expecting a decent performance due to the hype in the reviews. I was at first very disappointed, thinking he just seemed odd. Not only till a line by I think it was Vera Farmiga's character did I realise that his ability to show the character's vulnerability was so spot on. It's something you can never really put your finger on, yet it makes you feel uncomfortable watching him. I LOVED this film. Each and every character portrayed was excellent and the cast was amazing! It is very rare that you step out of the cinema thinking "wow! that was money well spent on entertainment". Not only does Martin Scorsese deserve his Oscar, but he has every reason be very proud of his excellent work in providing excellent entertainment.
Don 2007/04/13 11:20 AM
Crap This movie was absolute rubbish. It couldnt decide if it wanted to be a moving drama with violence or a violent movie with drama.The actors were brilliant but they should have used their talents in a better script. An what the hell is with all the headshots at the end?
G 2007/10/18 1:13 PM
This was Crap One of the most boring movies I have seen in a while...
Mindlo 2007/12/13 9:39 PM
FONG KONG This movie is a remake of a chinese movie, Infernal Affairs, and i should've known better than to believe reviewers, Mr. Scorsese has made a movie as good as Goodfellas and its not The Departed, Gangs of New york
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