Review: The Departed

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Director Martin Scorsese is back again. This time, he returns to his roots with a trip back to the "mean streets". This time, he is exploring the exciting and twisted world of "moles". No not the burrowing, blind kind; the infiltrators who betray everyone around them to achieve their objectives.

On one side of The Departed, you have Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio), fresh out of the police academy and determined to make his stamp on the police force. His first assignment is to infiltrate the mob and investigate local boss, Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson).

On the other side you have Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon), another new recruit who has been placed on the fast track as a leading investigator of organized crime. The catch, he is working for Costello.

I really liked the performances from Nicholson and DiCaprio. But probably my favorite of the three leads was Damon. There was just something delightful about seeing Damon be manipulative, crass, and scheming. I don't know what it was but it worked so well. I also really loved the character performances from Martin Sheen, Mark Wahlberg, and Alec Baldwin. If I had to pick a favorite of the three it would be Wahlberg, who gets to deliver some of the best lines of the film.

In some ways the film reminded me some of Heat, where we are waiting for the two sides to eventually collide and meet face to face. Scorsese does a brilliant job of maintaining the tension and the humor as the plot unfolds. Eventually, we have DiCaprio and Damon face off, where the whole film explodes and we are left with an insane body count.

The film is based on the Hong Kong classic Infernal Affairs, which at the time I wasn't really fond of. But there is one situation that I felt worked a lot better in the original than in Scorsese's interpretation. In the original, there was no psychiatrist (played by Vera Farmiga), but instead her role was spliced into two distinct girlfriends. The girlfriends of both the leads added to the plot and made for better drama. I think Scorsese was trying to use the solitary female character as an extra tension builder but I am not sure he ever achieved the effect he was looking for. I felt that the whole "psychiatrist" subplot was the weakest of the film. I really like Farmiga as an actress and she is good here, but the whole thread seems forced and out of place at times. Plus, I never felt a raw chemistry between her and either DiCaprio or Damon was ever achieved.

The Departed is brilliantly directed, the script is utterly brilliant, and the performances from all the leads are outstanding. It is hands down one of the best films of the year. (4.5 out of 5) So Says the Soothsayer.

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