Oscar Movie Month: "The Departed" Review


Oscar Movie Month: "The Departed" Review

-- Rating: R (for strong brutal violence, pervasive language, some strong sexual content, and drug material)
Length: 151 minutes
Release Date: Oct. 6, 2006
Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Genre: Crime and thriller

The crime/thriller movie "The Departed" features two men from different sides of the law who work undercover in the Massachusetts State Police and the Irish mafia. The film is a remake of "Infernal Affairs," a 2002 Hong Kong film. It was written by William Monahan and directed by Martin Scorsese.

In "The Departed," Irish-American mobster, Frank Costello (portrayed by Jack Nicholson), introduces Colin Sullivan (portrayed by Matt Damon) to organized crime. Costello's aim is to make Sullivan a mole in the Massachusetts State Police Department, and he succeeds in getting the young man admitted into the Special Investigations Unit. Meanwhile, Billy Costigan (portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio) has just graduated from the police academy and is instructed to take up undercover work in the organized crime families in the area.

Both men succeed in infiltrating their respective units, unwittingly beginning a relationship with the same psychiatrist, Madolyn Madden (portrayed by Vera Farmiga). When a sting operation goes south, they each become aware of the other's existence, albeit without knowing each other's true identities. Their respective bosses then direct them to unearth the moles.

"The Departed" was well received for several reasons. The performances of the main actors are impeccable. Damon, for instance, comes across as a creepy wise guy who is favored by the big boss of Boston gangsters. Nicholson, a mobster with a hands-on approach to his work, dispenses both advice and bullets with ease. The director, Scorsese, once again proved that he is one of the top directors in Hollywood by delivering one of his best movies since "GoodFellas."

Costigan and Sullivan exhibit both great contrasts and similarities in their nature and characters. While the resentful Costigan is often hunched over and tightly wound up, Sullivan has an easy going nature that enables him to carry himself in style and smooth talk his way out of difficult situations. The lines are delivered crisply and entertainingly by most of the characters, but it is easy to see that Costello carries the day in this respect. When he is told that a sick woman is "on the way out," Costello gives a warm smile and exclaims that "We all are, act accordingly!"

The major similarities are that both men are shown carrying out their respective duties from the same angle. Both men have troubled childhoods, grew up in the same part of town, have past connections with Costello, and they are both good in their jobs. Nicholson gave a stirring performance that would have been difficult to get from any other actor. What is interesting is that he makes his character come to life with so much ease, as if he could do it even while sleeping. He certainly has enough charisma to last him a lifetime if he can still do this after several decades of acting.

The storyline is good, but the great performances by the actors are stunning. The movie runs for more than two hours and, for the most part, the story is fascinating enough to keep audiences glued to the screen. Its success is also due to the fact that it is a clever mixture of several movie genres, so it is able to pull in different segments of fans. "The Departed" is a character drama, a thriller, and even a police procedural film all at the same time. Those who have problems with the movie, however, point to its ending as its major weakness.

In general, Scorsese films are eagerly awaited with high expectations. Perhaps this is partly due to his past successes such as "The Aviator." "The Departed" may suffer for these high expectations, and not receive as much acclaim as it should despite being a very interesting film. It is clear that the director did a good thing by taking a break from emotional movies such as "Kundun" by going to the mean streets depicted in "The Departed." The technical aspects of the movie were well taken care of too, with high-quality camera work and fantastic lighting.

In the end, "The Departed" is clearly worth watching. It would have been simple for the director to take the easy path and focus on gunfights and such things, but Scorsese cleverly avoided it. His fluent and muscle-flexing signature is clearly visible in a movie that leaves most audiences both shocked and entertained at the same time.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars