Sunday, October 08, 2006


The DepartedLeonardo DiCaprio Directed by Martin Scorsese
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio
Reviewed by Chad Wilson



A great filmmaker like Martin Scorsese has inspired countless others to create film and build upon his own substantial innovations. So it's somewhat fitting that things come full circle in which Scorsese's new film, The Departed, finds the director inspired by the successive films of those directors and filmmakers who found influence in Scorsese's work. A remake of the fantastic Hong Kong thriller Infernal Affairs, The Departed is a return to great moviemaking for Scorsese and his strongest film since Casino.

The Departed has two men, undercover on opposite sides of the law, racing to discover the identity of the other in a battle between the Irish Mafia and the Boston State Police. Inside the police, Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon, The Legend of Bagger Vance) is mobster trained as a police officer and has been feeding information to his organized crime boss Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson). Undercover in the mafia, Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a mole who did real jail time and erased his identity as cover, a scheme planned by Boston police boss Oliver Queenan (Martin Sheen) and his right hand man Dignam (Mark Wahlberg, Planet of the Apes, 2001). Each mole has been working inside the other's organization, but a gun deal between the Irish mob and Chinese mafia reveals to both sides that there is a rat in their respective houses. Now each mole faced with being exposed, Colin and Billy have to uncover the identity of the other before they end up dead.

Moving the setting from Hong Kong to Boston, Scorsese takes the story of Infernal Affairs (from an adaptation rewritten by William Monahan) and gives it his own personal touch. Preferring to embellish the story rather than pile on the pressure, The Departed is a slower paced film that builds deliberately and works towards a strong climax. Once again, Scorsese is in his element, including dialogue that solidly defines the nature of each character and infusing the film with the darker side of life. These manly characters have personalities born of the arena in which they play their game and Scorsese pulls no punches in depicting the racism and homophobia that run their lives. Alongside the artistic cinematography, none of the in-your-face violence we've come to expect from Scorsese is missing, making The Departed a film just as vibrant and visually disturbing as his other treatises on the bloody and brutal underworld.

This type high-concept film could have floundered in the hands of a lesser director, but Martin Scorsese backs up the script with a cast that performs adeptly time and again. Damon's Colin is charming and frigidly devious, ever the threat to DiCaprio's well played Billy, an angst ridden cop constantly in fear for his life. Jack Nicholson does his trademark best as the vulgar psychotic wiseguy Frank, always chummy with his strong-arm enforcer Mr. French, played with deep-voiced menace by the skillful Ray Winstone (The Proposition). Martin Sheen's role as Queenan is the level-headed intellect of the police, masterfully portrayed by Sheen as he moves his pawns around in an unrelenting quest to bring Frank to justice. Even minor roles shine, with a performance from Wahlberg as Dignam that is hilarious in Scorsese's trademark style of comedy-meets-vulgarity. Also of note is Alec Baldwin as Ellerby, who injects nearly all his scenes with sharp wit making the most of his screen time.

It would be easy to categorize The Departed as a flawless masterpiece, but the film falls just short of expectations. It generally keeps us glued to our seats, but at just under two and a half hours in length The Departed could use some trimming. The slower pace sacrifices much of the high-speed intensity of the original Infernal Affairs and while the dialogue and character development are ample entertainment, The Departed simply isn't as intense nor taut as it could be. The film also suffers from the overexposure of legendary actor Jack Nicholson and the silly antics of his portrayal as Frank Costello. Every over-the-top mob boss scene threatens to reduce the film to a star vehicle for Nicholson and when his character does dastardly deeds, that foolish grin often comes across as far less threatening than it should be. Lastly the film lacks a certain freshness that always occurs when a remake comes so soon after the original, since Infernal Affairs was released in 2002. Still, it's hard to go wrong with The Departed. From it's own landscape in North America, this film is easily one of the best of 2006 and Scorsese fans will delight at this fine feature that ranks among the director's best.

Despite being a remake, The Departed is a success all on it's own; beautifully shot, intriguing to watch, and with acting not to be missed, the film is skillfully directed by master filmmaker Martin Scorsese back in top form.

Click here for The Departed movie trailer!


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