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HD DVD Review: The Departed

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A remake of the 2002 Hong Kong film Internal Affairs, the US edition has Martin Scorsese behind it which is enough to separate it from its international counterpart. The intriguing premise placing two young cops on opposites sides of the law without even knowing who they are leads to unbelievable tension, and a string of unforgettable performances continue strengthening this effort.

What’s here goes deeper than a standard mob story. An array of characters, ranging from low-end mafia to the highest-ranking Boston investigators weaves a complex narrative with classic dialogue and on-screen interaction between the cast. All provide the viewer with necessary back story in this two and a half hour drama.

Hardly a second of screen time is wasted. The integral plot points are laid out for the viewer, and it’s up to them to piece it together (especially the ending). Some slightly implausible curves and even a few confusing intersections are not enough to dampen the impact. There’s enough information to draw your own conclusion.

Jack Nicholson leads a cast of what could nearly be a record number of familiar faces as mob boss Frank Costello. His evil demeanor, flawlessly created in the opening moments, sets the stage for Nicholson to give audiences lines with his own trademark style. Mark Wahlberg turns in one his best efforts as the smart-mouthed Sean Dignam even though his screen time is sadly limited.

This is a Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio show throughout. Their first encounter via cell phone, done completely in silence, will be an iconic moment remembered for decades. It’s a brilliant piece of tension.

Where The Departed will rank against the rest of Scorsese’s resume is debatable. What cannot be debated is that The Departed is a stunning piece of work, and a possible American classic. It may not be original, but the talents of those involved create a gripping film aimed at any fan of crime dramas.

In HD, Scorsese’s largest box office draw is phenomenal. A very fine grain, adding the proper amount of gritty style to the print, is noticeable where appropriate. Other scenes are flawless. Beautiful detail, down to the stitching of character’s clothing, is unmatched. Compression remains unseen, even under bright reds. Deep contrasting blacks offer depth, and complete a nearly flawless transfer.

Departed holds only a few sequences to showcase its Dolby TrueHD soundtrack. When called upon, it handles an active sound field with extensive motion. Bullets can be heard ricocheting off objects and traveling through all speakers. Howard Shore’s engrossing soundtrack likewise follows the same path. When not in one of the few action set pieces, this is an entirely centered presentation.

Stranger than Fiction: The True Story of Whitey Bulger, Southie, and the Departed leads the extras with a 21-minute look at a parallel story of a Boston mobster. The similarities are incredible. Following that is Crossing Criminal Cultures, a 25-minute piece on what draws Scorsese to crime dramas. Over 20 minutes of deleted scenes are introduced individually by the famed director, and he makes note that these were not cut due to his dislike for them in the overall story, but for time constraints only. A trailer is the only other extra.

For trivia geeks out there, The Departed holds an Oscar record. No, it’s not the number of nominations, but it’s the film to use “fuck” the most times (237) and win Best Picture. The Scorsese movie to use it the most? Casino, cropping up in the dialogue an amazing 422 times.

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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for Pulp365.com. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.
  • “What cannot be debated is that The Departed is a stunning piece of work, and a possible American classic.”

    Those statements are absolutely debatable because they are both incorrect. The Departed has some great moments, but is flawed. Costello, who has been so successful as a criminal, knows there a rat in the group, yet has no idea it’s Billy the new guy?! Didn’t buy it for a minute. He even tells us in the old days he would get rid of everyone, but since the movie’s going, he doesn’t.

    Wahlberg and Baldwin are great. Jack started good, but unfortunately is allowed to ham it up as usual with “his style” and destroys the authenticity of the character. That rat speech and the movie theatre scene were terrible. Too bad, DeNiro wasn’t available.

    The Departed will not endure as an American classic and the Academy should be embarrassed that this was the film they decided to honor Scorsese when he made so many better ones that they bypassed.