The Departed (2006)
Running time: 152 minutes (2 hours, 32 minutes)
MPAA – R for strong brutal violence, pervasive language, some strong sexual content, and drug material
DIRECTOR: Martin Scorsese
WRITER: William Monahan (based upon the film Infernal Affairs)
PRODUCERS: Brad Pitt, Brad Grey, and Graham King
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Michael Ballhaus
EDITOR: Thelma Schoonmaker
Academy Award winner – Best Picture 2006
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Ray Winstone, Vera Farmiga, Alec Baldwin, Anthony Anderson, James Badge Dale, David O’Hara, Mark Rolston, and Kristen Dalton
Some are speculating that Leonardo DiCaprio is director Martin Scorsese’s new Robert De Niro, as, like the young De Niro who starred in several of Scorcese’s early films, DiCaprio finds himself playing the lead in a third flick for the acclaimed director. (The others were Gangs of New York and The Aviator.) This time Scorsese and DiCaprio team up for The Departed, a remake of the 2002 Hong Kong film, Mou gaan dou (released in the U.S. as Infernal Affairs).
Whereas Infernal Affairs was set in Hong Kong, The Departed is set in South Boston where the Massachusetts State Police are waging an all-out war against the most powerful mob boss in the city, Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson). Inside the state police, the levelheaded Captain Queenan (Martin Sheen) and the hard-nosed and in-your-face Sergeant Dignam (Mark Wahlberg) operate a deep undercover program. They recruit a young rookie from a trouble background, William “Billy” Costigan, Jr. (Leonardo DiCaprio), who is from South Boston, to infiltrate Costello’s mob. When he accepts, the trio goes through a two-year process of rewriting and reestablishing Costigan’s identity.
Meanwhile, another young policeman is rising through the ranks, earning promotions rapidly. Before long, he joins the state police’s Special Investigations Unit, led by Captain Ellerby (Alec Baldwin). This small group of elite officers is also dedicated to bringing Costello down, but what they don’t know is that their “Southie” (from hoods of South Boston) new officer, Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon), is an undercover mole working for Frank Costello, and Sullivan is keeping the crime boss always ahead of the police.
The double lives consume Costigan and Sullivan, as they penetrate deeper, gathering information on plans and counter-plans of the operations they’ve both infiltrated. Dark secrets and double-crossing, however, abound, and both men learn that they aren’t the only ones with two faces. When both the gangsters and the police discover that there are rats among them, Billy and Colin each race to uncover the other man’s identity in time to save himself.
Infernal Affairs had good characters, but the film focused on plot more than it did on settings and characters. The Departed absolutely loves its characters and setting. William Monahan’s screenplay is a celebration of extreme characters full of odd and extreme behavior. Monahan uses the Boston setting to color these players, their actions, and motivations, etc. Occasionally, Scorsese and his longtime editor, Thelma Schoonmaker, get in the way of these characters because the narrative jumps from one scene to another. Even then, the camera seems restless within any given scene.
Still, nothing holds this cast back. Jack Nicholson does his best psycho in a while. Frank Costello is edgier than Nicholson’s Joker (in 1989’s Batman). Costello (based in part on notorious Boston gangster, Whitey Bulger) is over the top without seeming like a cartoon; Nicholson turns him into a scary, real monster – the incarnation of human evil. Damon’s Colin Sullivan reeks of being a wily street rat – a slick con artist who can sell a man his own car back to him. Mark Wahlberg also shines in a meaty small role, making the most of every scene without being a hog.
Of course, DiCaprio is the golden boy. He’s a great actor with the ability to bury himself in any role, but he’s also a movie star in the classic sense of old Hollywood. His star quality – the essence of Leo – remains, so that each role he takes doesn’t turn out to be just another actor with terrific skills doing method. Has Scorsese found his new De Niro? Perhaps, that’s not even the question to ask, but Scorsese has found another actor who can take his pictures to the next level.
As good as The Departed is, the warts show. Sometimes, the entire thing seems like an exercise in boys behaving badly – a chance for a bunch of actors to be hard killers and butt kickers – nihilism in abundance. Leo and Martin make sure that those warts only seem like blemishes on perfection.
9 of 10
Saturday, October 21, 2006
2007 Academy Awards: 4 wins for “Best Motion Picture of the Year” (Graham King), “Best Achievement in Directing” (Martin Scorcese), “Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay” (William Monahan), and “Best Achievement in Editing” (Thelma Schoonmaker); and 1 nomination for “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role” (Mark Wahlberg)
2007 BAFTA Awards: 6 nominations for best film, actor (Leonardo DiCaprio) supporting actor (Jack Nicholson), screenplay-adapted, editing, directing
2007 Golden Globes: 1 win for best director-motion picture; 5 nominations for best motion picture-drama, motion picture-drama (DiCaprio), supporting actor-motion picture (Nicholson, Wahlberg), and screenplay-motion picture