You know, my enjoyment of The Departed might have increased had I truly known what I was getting into. Yes, I knew it was a crime movie, but there are different kinds of crime movies. The kinds of crime movies where everybody gets shot by the end aren’t exactly the kind I want to go out of my way to see. I’d like something that gives me a little more hope for humanity.
Ignoring personal preferences, The Departed is a very good movie, and I’d even go so far as to call it a great one. It’s certainly a damn sight better than The Aviator, which I thought was boring, bloated, and criminally overrated. And I can safely say that if violent mob/crime movies are your cup of tea, you are in for a treat.
The Departed is a remake of the movie Infernal Affairs, which I didn’t see and, if this is any indication, I probably don’t want to. Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) is an undercover police officer infiltrating the mob. Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) is a mob informant quickly ascending the ranks in the police department. When both the mob and the police become aware of the fact that there’s a rat in their ranks, Billy and Colin each have to figure out who the other is before they end up dead.
Every time Jack Nicholson gets onscreen in this movie, it’s just to prove to us that he’s one hell of an actor. Not that he needs to at this point in the game, but here he just seems to have so much fun as Frank Costello, the head of the Irish mob in Boston. Whether he’s calm, cool, and collected or completely losing his mind, he’s having a blast and taking us along for the ride. He had everybody in the theater rolling.
Although Nicholson steals the show, the other performances are still strong. Mark Wahlberg is a jerk for the sake of being a jerk and doesn’t seem to care about endearing himself to anybody, which is always fun to watch. Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon are both excellent in their roles, something vital to the movie because they’re the two characters we get to know the best.
DiCaprio’s pill-popping detective has to spend over a year playing a role, and the stress of doing so and the fear of being found out wreak havoc on his psyche. Matt Damon’s mob informant isn’t as much of a loose cannon, and never looks to be truly worried about having his mob connection revealed. That’s not to say he won’t do anything to keep it under wraps, but it has less of a visible mental effect on him.
The characters are more important than the plot, which is for the most part solid. There are a few tiny points that seemed to have been put in there solely to get things moving from point A to point B, like the stolen computer chips at the beginning. They’re Macguffins put there to give the cops a reason to go after Costello, but are scarcely mentioned afterwards. It’s just a minor quibble, though.
At times, though, the length of the movie got to me. The beginning worked and moved along rather well, and the last hour keeps you on the edge of your seat like nobody’s business. Unfortunately, there’s about an hour in the middle that just drags. I’m not sure if something needed to be removed or if scenes just needed to be trimmed, but that hour had me checking my watch two or three times.
Despite that, The Departed is a return to form for Martin Scorcese. While it’s not perfect and not for everyone, those who’ve been dying to see a better-than-decent crime movie should get themselves to a theater immediately.
From 2003 up until 2007, I was lucky enough to have “movie reviewer” as my job description. As such, I’ve built up a *lot* of reviews for just about every movie that came out during those years, as well as reviews of classic movies. This is one of the reviews I originally wrote during that time.