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'The Departed' Movie Review

About.com Rating 5 Star Rating


Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg, Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon

'The Departed' New York City Premiere Sponsored by Belstaff

Shawn Ehlers/WireImage/Getty Images
Oscar, Schmoscar – who needs one anyhow? Martin Scorsese made this one to please his fans and not the members of the Academy who continue to invite him to the dance only to make him leave the event without the night’s most sought after party favor. With The Departed, Martin Scorsese returns full-force to the vulgar, sickeningly violent world portrayed in his critically acclaimed mob dramas. Thank you Mr. Scorsese. It’s been a long wait but The Departed made it worthwhile.

The setting's Boston and the gangsters may be Irish rather than Italian-Americans, but the brutal, in-your-face violence and raw dialogue rival any film in Scorsese’s catalogue. Easily on par with Scorsese's Mean Streets and Goodfellas, The Departed is an amazing piece of work and one that’s sure to win over a new generation of moviegoers who, to this point, have only been able to catch Scorsese’s best work on DVD/video.

The Story

While the story goes off in half a dozen different directions (if you smell fish in the theater it’s because the film’s got its fair share of red herrings), there’s really only one plotline that matters: the race to uncover moles hidden inside the mob and the Massachusetts State Police. Leonardi DiCaprio stars as Billy Costigan, a rookie cop recruited straight out of the academy to infiltrate Boston crime boss Frank Costello’s world.

Costigan worms his way into Costello’s good graces – mostly by kicking the crap out of anyone who glances his way. But Costello’s got an ace up his sleeve in the form of Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon), an overly eager, overachieving cop who feeds the gangster insider info on potential busts. Colin was practically raised by Costello and even calls him ‘dad’ when he phones in tips.

Mark Wahlberg and Matt Damon Photo from The Departed

Mark Wahlberg and Matt Damon square off in The Departed.

© Warner Bros Pictures
It’s not long before Costigan figures out the police department’s been compromised. Sullivan soon comes to the same conclusion about Costello’s gang. With their lives literally on the line, the two play a deadly game of cat and mouse in which they try and force the other into revealing himself without giving away their own identity.

The Acting

Hand him his certificate; Matt Damon has graduated to another level of acting. Scorsese gets the absolute best there is out of Damon who, on the surface, seems like the least likely choice to play a crooked cop who sides with the mob. His eyes ice up and you can see the wheels working as he measures how to play each situation. Damon delivers a coldly calculated performance that almost gives you goosebumps.

Scorsese’s new favorite actor, DiCaprio, nails the conflicted cop struggling to hold onto his sanity in a situation spiraling out of control. Although he’s played adults characters many times before, somehow this performance feels like the first time we’ve seen a mature DiCaprio onscreen. He’s still boyishly handsome but in The Departed there’s a hard edge to his features that’s never been there before.

Jack Nicholson plays Costello as a leering, sexual beast just this side of insane. Most of the film’s sick gallows humor comes from Nicholson as Costello, who appears to have been set free to play with the role. Costello spouts racial slurs, waves around a huge dildo, and goes way over the top with the performance. But it works. Nicholson’s whirling dervish portrayal of an untouchable, perverted mob boss is reason alone to see The Departed.

DiCaprio, Damon and Nicholson may lead the charge but the supporting characters are equally up to the challenge. Mark Wahlberg’s character is worthy of his own spin-off. As a foul-mouthed state trooper who doesn’t care who he insults or offends, Wahlberg spends the film in a state of rage. Underrated as an actor, this could be Wahlberg's best performance to date. Also impressive are Alec Baldwin and Martin Sheen as two senior officers trying to bring down Costello and his crew.

To Sum It Up

Even the insertion of a love triangle, something that would normally disturb me to no end in a drama of this sort, doesn’t hurt the film. Scorsese’s structures the beginning of The Departed with scenes within scenes, just to set up the final act. Annoying in other circumstances, the tactic works because the filmmaker knows how to keep the viewer engaged. Scorsese pulls out all the stops, using lighting, camera angles, and rock music to capture the down and dirty world of mobs versus cops in The Departed.

Adapted by William Monahan from the Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs, The Departed is a star-studded gangster thriller loaded with profanity, dark humor, graphic violence, and stunning performances. It’s wild and edgy and everything we’ve come to love about Scorsese.

Grade: A

The Departed was directed by Martin Scorsese and is rated R for strong brutal violence, pervasive language, some strong sexual content and drug material.

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