Well, first let me start off by apologizing. The movie I am reviewing this week is not a brand new release. I am, however, hoping that those of you that, like me, have waited this long to see this movie will stop what you’re doing right now and go out and see it. The film: The Departed.As a film major, you can’t help but love Martin Scorsese. Whether you are the freshman male with the Taxi Driver poster in his bedroom or if you like his lesser well-known films like Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore or The Age of Innocence, you always come to the point of respecting, adoring and wanting to be him. And The Departed makes me respect, adore and want to be him even more.
The Departed follows two men from opposite sides of the law as they go undercover and get in over their heads. Leonardo DiCaprio plays Billy Corrigan, a loser from a family of losers (aside from his late father, in whose footsteps he wants to follow). He is determined to become a policeman, but is talked into going undercover within the mafia and becoming one of the fearsome Frank Costello’s men. On the flipside of things is Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon), an orphan whose adoptive father is Costello. He graduates from the police academy and quickly rises up the ladder, feeding information to the Irish mafia. Things work well for both of them for a while, until both sides of the law begin to suspect that there is a mole present in their organization. Corrigan and Sullivan are assigned to find out each other’s identities.
The film is based on the film Infernal Affairs, which I have not seen (but probably should have). William Monahan’s script, however, is brilliant. The dialogue and characterizations are amazing, and the twists and turns are believable and either kept me on the edge of my seat or broke my heart (or both). Take my advice and bring a date that doesn’t mind having his/her hand squeezed into paralysis.
But most of all, the acting in The Departed was phenomenal. I don’t know that I could pick one performance that was better than another – all of the actors shone. Even people like Mark Wahlberg and Alec Baldwin, who I was expecting rather lackluster performances from, blew me away. At no point during the film (which was a semi-lengthy two-and-a-half hours) was I conscious of the fact that the six main actors (Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen and Alec Baldwin) were all A-list (or almost A-list) talent that could command millions for a single performance. They were just six guys playing their parts and doing a damn good job at it.
Colin Sullivan is a lot more emotionally distant than Billy Costigan, so a lot of sympathy falls toward the latter. Sullivan has been brought up to be a liar and he is good at it. Once he meets The Girl, however, he tries to change his ways. Costigan has never been a liar, and isn’t very good at it, as is shown during the interrogation scene with Dignam (Mark Wahlberg). He must become a liar, a personally completely different from himself, and after time begins to lose his identity. The whole theme of identity is huge throughout the film – which side are you on, where are you from, where do you belong, who you really are – and we watch as these two men struggle to make sense of it all.
For the first time in a long time, Jack Nicholson’s performance is less Jack and more the actual character. I’ve always been a fan of Nicholson, but lately all of his films seem to give you the smile and “Oh, Jack” reaction. In The Departed, he is the main villain, and while the script doesn’t take too much time to make us understand how he came to be the man he is (other than learning that to succeed in anything have to take care of it yourself, his personal mantra as sorts), the depiction of his character does not suffer. He is about as unappealing as I’ve ever seen him, and he trades in his trademark grin for a sneer.
Welcome comic relief is provided by Alec Baldwin as Ellerby and Mark Wahlberg as Dignam. They have a lot of the best lines in the film, and their characters help to bring a bit of balance to this dark, dark film.
As is characteristic in Scorsese films, the other sex isn’t a very large part of the film. While Vera Farmiga played Madolyn, the therapist Sullivan and Costigan both fall for, the only other female character with reoccurring scenes was Gwen (played by Kristen Dalton), who played Costello’s “girlfriend.”
The film also investigates themes of betrayal and male rage (also characteristic of Scorsese films). These are pretty much always present in mafia/gangster films, but are shown rather than expressed in The Departed. Scorsese has never been butterflies-and-daisies with his scenes, but I have to admit that the blood splatter got a bit gratuitous after a while. While I am quite sure that falling off of a tall building to the concrete sidewalk below isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing experience that a body could go through, I don’t think that the audience needs to see every spurt of blood magnified in order to grasp the severity of the violence in the scene.
Lastly, the themes of sacrifice and good versus evil drive the storyline in The Departed. The Irish community in the film consists of god-fearing Catholics, and there are several aesthetic references to the cross. But religious inferences aside, the film asks some big questions in a more subtle, bittersweet way. What is good and what is evil? How far are you willing to go to protect yourself or those you love? Are you willing to sacrifice yourself for a greater cause?
So it’s been out for a few weeks. Go see it. Trust me.
DVD Highlights for the week of November 21st:An Inconvenient Truth: Director David Guggenheim explains the causes and effects of global warming in this documentary, also featuring lecture footage of former vice president Al Gore. You, Me & Dupree: Kate Hudson and Matt Dillon star as newlyweds who allow Dillon’s friend Owen Wilson to stay as their houseguest. Wilson wreaks comic havoc on their lives.
Scoop: Scarlett Johanssen plays an American journalism major in London who gets a tip from the ghost of a dead journalist. From the tip, she begins to investigate the identity of “The Tarot Card Killer” and winds up falling in love with the main suspect (Hugh Jackman). Woody Allen writes, directs and co-stars.
Ice Age: The Meltdown: The characters from the original Ice Age return as their frozen world begins to melt and they must migrate in order to escape an impending flood.
(Also on DVD: Azumi; Another Gay Movie; Little Athens; Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist: Season Two ; Home Alone: Family Fun Edition; Slayer; Totally Awesome; The Ten Commandments: The Musical; Bang; Death & Texas; School For Seduction; Love Thy Neighbor; Jekyll & Hyde: The Musical ; Been Rich All My Life; Andy Warhol: A Documentary Film; Benjamin Britten: A Time There Was…; Heavy Metal: Louder Than Life; Thin: The Internationale; Heaven: Where Is It? How Do We Get There?; Mafia Empire; Don’t Be Scared; Angora Ranch; Vacationland; and Def Comedy Jam Classics – Volumes One & Two)