The Departed

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Director: Martin Scorsese.
Screenplay: William Monahan.
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jack Nicholson, Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg, Alec Baldwin, Martin Sheen, Ray Winstone, Vera Farmiga, Anthony Anderson, Mark Rolston, David Patrick O’Hara, Kevin Corrigan, James Badge Dale, J.C. MacKenzie, Robert Wahlberg.

When I was your age they would say we can become cops, or criminals. Today, what I’m saying to you is this: when you’re facing a loaded gun, what’s the difference?

Despite Martin Scorsese directing consistently good films since the 1970′s, the well deserved Academy Award always eluded him. He was snubbed for such classics as “Raging Bull” and “Goodfellas” but he finally got his hands on that long-awaited gong for this remake of the 2002 Hong Kong film “Infernal Affairs“.

After graduating from the Boston police academy, cadet Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) is put undercover to infiltrate the city’s Irish-American gangland of violent and volatile mob boss Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson). However, Costello has an ace up his sleeve in Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon), another new recruit from the police department who climbs the ladder to lead a task force in bringing Costello down. It’s a front for Sullivan, of course, as his main aim is to leak information back to Costello.

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After his Howard Hughes biopic “The Aviator” in 2004, and a few other period pieces like “Gangs of New York“, “Kundun” and “The Age of Innocence“, Scorsese makes a welcome return to what he does best – dealing with organised crime and corruption. Along with him, is a top-notch cast and a very enticing and long-awaited collaboration with contemporary actor Jack Nicholson.

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Needless to say, there’s no disappointment to be found; Nicholson adds real danger and unpredictability to an already complex film and the type of role that he has outdone himself with in the past. Here, he’s no different and it’s great to see him and Scorsese finally working together. He’s not the only one on good form here though; Scorsese’s usual leading actor DiCaprio is also brilliantly on-edge and channels an intense desperation, proving why he has replaced Robert DeNiro as the great auteurs actor of choice. The rest of the impressively assembled cast; from Matt Damon to Alec Baldwin, Martin Sheen and the Oscar nominated Mark Wahlberg, are no slouch’s either. It’s a solid ensemble overall but, ultimately, it’s Scorsese’s expertise in this genre that pays dividends. He constructs the cat and mouse, race-against-time, structure with the deftness of a master and adds a real density to, not just time and place, but to the multi-layered character’s while assuredly building at a pace that’s entirely on his own terms. This, in turn, lends to numerous moments of well played tension while maintaining an investment in everyone involved.

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The story is labyrinthine, to say the least, and some plot developments may creak under the immense weight but it’s so well delivered that it doesn’t matter. This is arguably Scorsese at his most entertaining since “Goodfellas“.

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I’m not normally an advocate for remakes but the when the quality behind, and in front of, the camera are this good, how can I really complain? This is one of the most enjoyable and accessible films in Scorsese’s canon – the only thing missing is Robert DeNiro, but then he has an electric, on-form, Jack Nicholson to make up for that.

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Mark Walker

Trivia: Originally Brad Pitt was cast as Colin Sullivan, but later dropped out to work with Alejandro González Iñárritu in Babel (2006). He continued to produce the film under his (and his then wife Jennifer Aniston’s) production company, Plan B.

(This review was part of a double-take collaboration with the always entertaining Eric from the The IPC. To view the double-take in full, go here).

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54 Responses to “The Departed”

  1. Nice review. I think The Departed is a great movie and one of the stronger films Scorsese has made in recent years but I can’t help but feel him winning the Oscar was an apology for snubbing him all those years. It wasn’t an undeserved winner, but as strong as The Departed is, it isn’t in the same league as Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, or GoodFellas.

    • Thanks man! Yeah, I agree. I still think he was a worthy winner that year but it did seem a bit orchestrated. Scorsese should have had a couple (at least) already in the bag. That being said, The Departed is still a very strong film.

  2. Nice work Mark. With you 100% on the quality of this, especially the cast. I also agree with Charles in the comment above – a very very good film but I can’t help but think he should have won for one of the others – or even Casino or The Aviator.

    • Cheers Stu. Yeah, he could easily have got it for Casino or the Aviator too but really he should have been given it way before that. There’s at least two from the 70′s (Mean Streets & Taxi Driver) and Goodfellas and Raging Bull were major snubs as well.

      • Definitely! I don’t want to slight Dances With Wolves too much as it’s a decent film, but GoodFellas should have walked it that year. I haven’t seen Ordinary People but if it truly is a better film than Raging Bull…then fair enough, I probably ought to watch that tonight!

      • I love Dances with Wolves and can understand it winning due to the sheer scope of it but Goodfellas is a classic.

        As for Ordinary People, it’s a very good film but nowhere near the class of Raging Bull. It’s one of those “safe” films that the academy seem to adore, though.

  3. Hard to argue with the score. The Departed is such a good crime thriller with some really good tension built in. And what a cast. Some great performances give it even more punch. Great review Mark.

  4. Very good review!

  5. Totally rewatchable, as most Scorsese movies are. Good review Mark.

  6. Mark, great review to a great film. Nickelson’s outfits, his wild eye, the scene with the pile of powder–he clearly stole the show for me as one of the strangest, complex characters in the film. I thought Vera Farmiga was great and Wahlberg the best acting between DiCaprio and Damon.

    • Thanks Cindy. I wouldn’t argue with you on Nicholson at all. He was top quality here. Possibly his last great role. The one of the cast that I couldn’t take to was Ray Winstone and his ridiculous accent.

      • Was he trying to have an accent? Sounds like ‘Beowulf’ to me. The rough Hackney trying to sound Boston-Irish? It was Ray being Ray, his brogue–whatever it is–didn’t bother me as much as Leo. I love Leo DiCaprio, but I couldn’t buy him as the tough guy. I don’t care how much he smokes or wrinkles his forehead, he’s just too pretty.

      • Yeah, I couldn’t take to Winstone at all here. Normally I quite like him but him and accents don’t do well together.

        As for Leo, I thought he was great in this. He does still suffer from a baby face slightly but I loved his intensity here.

  7. We ROCK!! Thanks for the team up, Mucker!!

    Boat Drinks!

  8. Victor De Leon Says:

    I love this Scorcese entry! Tense, well crafted and acted and has incredible atmosphere with that great Marty mood thrown in. Need to re-visit it soon. Awesome review!

  9. Great review and great flick. I’m still not sure what I think about it getting Best Picture and Best Director. I feel they were “apology” Oscars to make up for the lack of everything Scorcese had. Good writeup, Mark. Glad you love it.

  10. Quality review here. I would have actually given this top marks. Additionally I’ve seen infernal Affairs and it is just as good as The Departed.

    • Cheers Chris. I considered top marks but I rarely give them out to films that are remakes. Added to which, I found some (very small) plot inconsistencies. There wasn’t much to gripe about, though.

  11. Great review and I have to admit it’s one I haven’t seen yet. I’ve had a few of the plots spoiled for me already though (no not from your review), I guess it’s my fault for not having seen it yet, ahah.

    • Aah! That’s a shame that it’s been spoiled. It does have a few surprises up its sleeve. I remember including a piece in trivia tidbits but I was sure to put a spoiler warming beforehand. It’s great film that you should still check out, though.

      • I might do that at some point, though usually w/ films like this I like to watch w/ my hubby but he’s already seen it :D

  12. Great write up Mark, I’ll pop over and check out the Double Take too. Really great film and one of Scorsese’s recent bests but I still think he’s made better films that were more deserving of the Oscar.

  13. Solid review Mark. I’m in a bit of a minority as this is just about my favorite Scorsese film so I’m glad to see you review it.

  14. Spot on review, Mark. Definitely a great film all around. :)

  15. Nicely reviewed as always Mark. I’d chalk this up to an entertaining footnote in Scorsese’s esteemed career.

  16. LOVED The Departed Mark! This is a great review and assessment. It was thrilling, kept you interested and guessing, the story was all over the show but never a mess. The cast was pretty strong and, as I said over at the IPC, Wahlberg really got his shit together for a change, and did this well. This was another great outing from DiCaprio, I really think the man is amazing!

    • Thanks very much Zoe. I totally agree. The film worked on so many levels and still managed to hold it together. I’ve never really understood the criticism that DiCaprio comes in for. He’s always a solid actor and he’s exceptionally good in this one.

      • I was excited for this and it really didn’t disappoint. Few movies can say that!

        I really don’t get why people hate on him! He is bloody awesome, and one of my top favourite actors to boot. He shines, and always thrills me!

      • I had the exact same feelings. I remember the first time I seen the poster for it and couldn’t wait to see it. It lived up to every moment.

        I was the same with DiCaprio. When I first came across him in This Boys Life and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, I knew straight away he had the goods. His only blip was Titanic was otherwise he’s always brilliant.

      • :D

        Yeah we won’t talk about Titanic. It isn’t even that he was so awful there per se, the whole damn thing sucked. But whatever. I mean his role in Django Unchained was just amazing, and Inception and Shutter Island were great, too. Then there was The Aviator and Catch Me If You Can (which I thoroughly enjoyed!)…

        Excuse me, I can really wax lyrical about his career.

      • Wax lyrical all you like Zoe. I agree. Titanic was a disaster but other than that I couldn’t complain in the slightest about DiCaprio’s output. The Basketball Diaries is another one that springs to mind.

      • Yayness! Someone that gets it. I had a friend the other day that couldn’t believe that I was a DiCaprio fan. Don’t understand.

        To be honest that is something I have yet to see. Actually I am just going to put it on my watchlist immediately to rectify that!

      • I think DiCaprio can sometimes just be one of those actors that people love to hate. It certainly can’t be based on his acting chops!

      • You’re right, it really can’t be about his skills!

  17. Awesome Review Mark! I completely agree with you about the awesome-ness both in front and behind the camera. The cast was just wow. I loved Alec Baldwin & Mark Wahlberg the best.

    I feel Nicholson did his usual, but a bit more intense, kind of role though. Coincidentally I reviewed this recently too. :P

    http://www.blankpagebeatdown.com/movie-review-departed-2006/

    • Thanks Shah! I’ve always been a fan of Baldwin and he didn’t disappoint here. I would liked to have seen a little more of him, though. As Wahlberg, I normally don’t take to him big he does impress on occasion and he was good here.

      I’ll swing by in your take a little later, man. Cheers!

  18. “Needless to say, there’s no disappointment to be found”

    You’re absolutely right about that. I had absolutely no qualms with this movie winning best picture; it was flawlessly executed.

    …and Nicholson in that cheetah robe…haha I love it still!!

  19. Great review Mark, I love this movie! I agree it’s not quite on the same level as Raging Bull, Taxi Driver, and Goodfellas. I also agree it got an “apology” Oscar for Best Pic & Best Director, but only in the sense that there was no way he wasn’t going to win. It just happened to be the best movie that year, in my opinion. Not sure if you’ve seen Infernal Affairs. It is a very good movie, but with the added character development this is the rare occasion where the remake outshines the original.

    • Thanks again Wendell. You hit the nail right on the head there. It did seem like an “apology” Oscar but what film was better that year? The Departed is very strong stuff and Scorsese can still be very proud.

  20. I loved The Aviator beyond limits. But The Departed stays a notch above it. Well written piece here :)

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