Genre: Crime Drama and Gangster Running Time: 2 hrs. 31 min.
Release Date: October 6th, 2006 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Martin Scorsese Actors: Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Vera Farmiga, Ray Winstone, Anthony Anderson, Alec Baldwin, Kevin Corrigan, James Badge Dale, Kristen Dalton
eginning with a bit of narration and an introduction to the shady side of Boston gangsterism – not unlike director Martin Scorsese’s numerous other cinematic examinations of organized crime – “The Departed” tells the tale of two men slowly losing focus on their identities. It’s also loosely based on the true-to-life situations of Whitey Bulger and John Connolly, infused with a ticking time-bomb of a plot to unveil and preserve hidden agendas. And, most of all, it’s an intoxicating blend of suspense, romance, underworld drama, and blood-soaked action.
Tutored by ruthless gangster Francis “Frank” Costello (Jack Nicholson), Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) grows up to become a police officer – the perfect, untraceable mole in a system that, although seemingly crawling with corruption, always needs more dependable inside men for the mob. After passing the exam to become a State Police Detective, Sullivan begins rising through the ranks and aiding the FBI in disrupting organized crime in the city, all while feeding information back to Costello. As he’s assigned to solve a case of stolen military microprocessors, Colin also covertly attempts to identify potential spies against Costello – all while dating troubled psychiatrist Madolyn (Vera Farmiga).
At the same time, William “Billy” Costigan Jr. (Leonardo DiCaprio), a young Massachusetts State Trooper with no family and a lineage filled with criminals, is recruited by Captain Charles Queenan (Martin Sheen) and his contemptuous Staff Sergeant Dignam (Mark Wahlberg) of the Special Investigations Unit to go undercover in the Boston gangland. Serving time, attending court-ordered rehabilitation and counseling, and picking up work with his drug-running cousin, Billy soon cozens his way into Costello’s inner circle. And he also starts seeing Madolyn. But as law enforcement slowly builds a case against Costello, Billy finds his mental stability deteriorating at a rapid pace – to match the countless dangers continually threatening his life.
Although the story itself is suspenseful, twisty, and utterly involving, the use of quirky editing – thanks to Scorsese regular Thelma Schoonmaker – is absolutely superb. Quick cuts, amusing camera angles, artistic juxtaposition, and timed transitions with an upbeat, rousing soundtrack (by Howard Shore) give an already exhilarating project the edge it needs to transcend its origins as a remake of the 2002 Hong Kong picture “Infernal Affairs.” Borrowing the quirkiness of “Goodfellas” and the elaborateness of “Gangs of New York,” “The Departed” just might be Scorsese’s most complex, well-balanced gangster flick of his career.
In addition to the style and tone, imparting both antihero bravado and thrilling moments of contrasting calm, the film is a stunning, revelatory character study. Dissecting motives and actions of criminals and cops, each interchangeable in a labyrinthine screenplay of shifting allegiances, countless lies, and crafty sleuthing, “The Departed” takes the concepts of backstabbing and betrayal to whole new heights, particularly with its riveting, unpredictable finale. The overwhelming destruction and futility of trying to achieve an upper hand among indistinguishable protagonists and antagonists is nothing short of breathtaking. Supporting players, including the comic relief of Alec Baldwin and the staggering forcefulness of Wahlberg are unquestionable highlights. Deservedly winning the Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Director (a long time coming for the oft-nominated Scorsese), as well as Adapted Screenplay (William Monahan) and Film Editing, “The Departed” is a crowd-pleasing, monumental achievement.
– Mike Massie