The Departed (2006)

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Movie Review written by: Born Movie Reviews
RT Critics Rating: 9.3/10

Born Movie Reviews' Rating: 9/10

THE DEPARTED (2006) - Martin Scorsese

"I don't want to be a product of my environment. I want my environment to be a product of me. Years ago we had the church. That was only a way of saying - we had each other. The Knights of Columbus were real head-breakers; true guineas. They took over their piece of the city. Twenty years after an Irishman couldn't get a f***ing job, we had the presidency. May he rest in peace. That's what the n***ers don't realize. If I got one thing against the black chappies, it's this - no one gives it to you. You have to take it."

Having been nominated for Best Director five times, Martin Scorsese this time successfully took home the Academy Award, along with Best Picture, for his tense gangster thriller, remake of the 2002 Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs.

The Departed takes place in the town of Boston, and revolves around the ongoing heated battle between the Massachusetts State Police and the Irish Mob, led by Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson). The plot explains how Costello plants Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) as a mole within the police, who finds himself quickly climbing up the ranks. Simultaneously, the police assign undercover cop Billy Costigan (Leonardo diCaprio) to infiltrate Costello's crew, pretending to be one of their own. When both men realize that there is a "rat" in their opposing teams, they set out to find each other's true identity before their own covers are blown.

Stylistic and fast-paced, the film is brilliantly edited, randomly halting music when doors open, jumping back and forth between characters in what they are doing. Along with extremely sharp dialogue and exhilarating acting, The Departed proves that Master Scorsese is still an expert in gangster cinema. Here, these characters throw words at each other unbelievably fast, compliment or insult, so fast that you might have trouble understanding what they are saying or what their lines actually meant. Watch out for Mark Wahlberg's Staff Sergeant Dignam and you will know what I mean. The good part though is you don't have to understand every single word they say. That's the intentional beauty of The Departed.

For sure, this film is the best casted of the year, or in recent years. diCaprio, Damon, Nicholson, and Wahlberg all pull off some of the grittiest performances in all of their careers. diCaprio's Costigan, having his family tied to organized crime, appears as the perfect man to "work for" Costello, and diCaprio nails his soul down. His spiky facial hair and square jaw appear hardened this time around. One look at him and you can feel suspicious. As he hides in the crime organization, he is thrown back and forth in his identity, who he is and who he isn't - there is a clear foil between his "father" Costello and his "father" Queenan (Martin Sheen), the captain who hired him.

Damon, learning from his experience as Jason Bourne, now takes up a charming personality where he can easily attract women, in this case a psychiatrist (Vera Farmiga). He's smart, knowledgeable, resourceful, and quick-witted, exactly the man the the police need in the Special Investigations Unit. Yet, throughout the film, this man is just evil wearing a mask, a sticky and poisonous trick of identity.

The key in making The Departed one of the best gangster films ever is the pacing and tense storytelling. For both leads, they have their own sacrifices. The undercover cop needs to be willing to pull the trigger on men who don't deserve to die. The infiltrating detective needs to be willing to arrest criminals, even if they are his friends. As the film turns its screws on the audience, the communication among characters grows thinner and thinner, as less people know who is really working for who. At times, even we the audience can get confused, and thus worried, and thus more terrified. What new piece of information does one side have? What's going to happen next? Did someone catch something that I didn't catch myself?

Furthermore, the picture is flooded with engrossing color and use of locations. The placement of furnitures, photographs, and lamps were all thought out through and through. For sure, this production design deserves to be very much admired. Scorsese takes great advantage of what he is given, a great cast and a great budget. Fortunately, he made the best use out of it here.

In conclusion, The Departed is a gritty, intensely violent triumph by Martin Scorsese, in which the entire crux is about characterization, storytelling, and themes. Though the director himself is visiting familiar territory that his earlier films like Taxi Driver and Goodfellas have explored, his Best Picture winner is inevitably well-crafted, well-shot, and well-paced. DiCaprio and Damon are both at their peaks here, each carrying a unique flare in the film that eventually collides with the other when their characters meet. Without a doubt, I know your heart will burst when the film ends. Trust me.


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