The Departed

June 22, 2009

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The Departed

Review By: Clayton Davis

It's a good, solid hit for the man, Mr. Martin Scorsese. Everyone has been wondering if this is the year he'll receive his long overdue Oscar and I'm very comfortable stating that this will NOT be the year unfortunately. The Departed is a remake of the Hong-Kong film Infernal Affairs which tells the story of two men, Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) whom are on two opposites sides of the law and seem to have their lives revolving around one of the most notorious gangsters, Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson). Billy comes from a family of mafia lords and crime smugglers, however he seems to find his way into the honorable profession of law enforcement and wanting to make a difference. After his graduation from the academy, he is made an offer that involves getting entangled with the roots of his family and becoming the one thing he swore to fight against.

He is discharged from the police and serves a one-year prison sentence and upon his departure, joins the crowd of Costello made up of scandalous thugs and convicts, in order to gain information and evidence to convict the felon. But Costello has some tricks up his sleeve and his infamous nature is guarded by the inside of the commandment. Many years prior to Billy's infiltration, Costello befriends a young boy and makes him his own personal messenger and protégé, Colin Sullivan. Colin is well trained and Frank convinces him to join the Boston State Police as his source of crime and information. He tips Frank off for police operations while quickly moving his way up the ladder of success in the department.

The two men accept their tasks and we are thrown into the ultimate story of corruption, deceit and loyalty. Billy Costigan is the most complex character thanks to the powerful performance by Leonardo DiCaprio. Billy has his own personal demons and is in constant battle within himself, from his crimes with Costello to his loss of humanization. Billy seems to lose himself in the film and is in long search of redemption for his misdemeanors. DiCaprio is truly a gifted and talented actor and continues to show us that he isn't the same boy/heartthrob from Titanic, his Billy is perplexing and utterly haunting. DiCaprio's performance is the best of the cast but I'm afraid the role doesn't garner the "Oscar scene" to gather true awards attention. He does have some powerful clips, although they're a part of an action flick that few actors can seem to find their way out of and onto a short list called the Best Actor race. The film would need to be a unanimous hit for him to pull off nomination #3. His Boston accent is great and the fury that he finds in his character is remarkable. I just don't feel his character can be appreciated and admired the way it should be.

Matt Damon also continues to show us that he isn't just Will Hunting. From his underrated performance in Syriana, Damon has been trying to show us a different part of him each time. Colin is the most hated man of the film, hands down. From his manipulation of the law to his constant deceit and betrayal of his peers, Damon truly finds his character's axis. Colin Sullivan is greedy in power, arrogant in thoughts, and degrading in aura. The powerful and well put together screenplay elevates what could have been a very typical story and turns it into an action genre with slices of drama sequences that some films only dream of being. The pace of the film is just right with all the right decisions being made. Scorsese builds scenes with so much suspense that it's terribly hard not to become knotted in the film and be at the edge of your seat.

Jack? Well"¦Jack, I believe is on his way to another nomination. Frank Costello is one of the most malevolent, immoral, sinful men of recent film history. Jack is the man and while he deserves the acclaim that he hopefully will receive for the role, he is in no way walking to the podium to accept a fourth Oscar. Even though he does many wicked things in the film, you start to admire the spirit and reputation of Frank Costello. He is the best put together player, head to toe, from his monologues about his past to his devilish humor; he chews scenery so well that he bleeds out the screen. There is no real reason to reiterate how great Jack is but it is great to see those sunglasses at the Kodak Theater from time to time.

While The Departed is jam-packed with suspense and thrills, there is a huge flaw that befalls the film and it's its extremely weak ending. The film builds you up to a climax you cannot wait to see and experience but unfortunately, the end result is rather dull, flat and bland. While it didn't destroy the film entirely, it did enough damage to not make it a cinematic gem. Also, the entrance of Vera Farmiga's character as Madeleine, the police authority psychiatrist who starts to date Colin and ends up webbed in a love triangle with Billy is rather forced and unnecessary. It's a bit too cheesy to suffice and the dramatic elements were enough without bringing in a tedious romance.

What are The Departed‘s chances for the upcoming awards season? I'll say Jack Nicholson for supporting, the three-person writing team in the adapted screenplay category and a few technical nominations including sound, sound editing, editing and Howard Shore's potent score. Scorsese could find a spot in the Director's five but the film is too "something." I can't think of what it is yet, but whatever it is there's an overabundance. The Globes will probably snap at the film because it's very reminiscent of Scorsese's previous works like Goodfellas and Gangs of New York but there's no Weinstein's to truly get it out there and appreciated.

The supporting cast is very comical and illustrious especially Mark Wahlberg and Martin Sheen as the two detectives that are the sole knowledgeable officers of Billy's real identity. The film is a solid effort with a solid result but Scorsese should start writing his speech for the honorary Oscar and enjoy the spotlight as one of the best, if not the best director of modern time. The film rips at you from inside and leaves a lucid impingement for all areas to be felt.

Movie Grade: A-


The Departed is set in South Boston, where the state police force is waging war on organized crime. Young undercover cop Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) is assigned to infiltrate the mob syndicate run by gangland chief Costello (Jack Nicholson). While Billy is quickly gaining Costello’s confidence, Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon), a hardened young criminal who has infiltrated the police department as an informer for the syndicate, is rising to a position of power in the Special Investigation Unit. Each man becomes deeply consumed by his double life, gathering information about the plans and counter-plans of the operations he has penetrated. But when it becomes clear to both the gangsters and the police that there’s a mole in their midst, Billy and Colin are suddenly in danger of being caught and exposed to the enemy "” and each must race to uncover the identity of the other man in time to save himself.



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