It’s been a long wait, but apparently we are not to be entirely deprived of good cinema this year. True to recent trends, the best movies of the year have been saved for the end in an attempt, misguided or not, to increase the chances of an Oscar nomination. Martin Scorsese has directed The Departed, a film which may be his finest work to date and the one which just might get him that elusive hardware.
Sporting a stellar cast, The Departed chronicles the back and forth struggle between the Boston PD and the Irish mob. Leonardo DiCaprio plays Billy Costigan and Matt Damon plays Colin Sullivan, both recent graduates of the Police Academy. One of them becomes a spy planted in the Irish mob, while the other is a spy for the mob whom Frank Costello, played by Jack Nicholson, has planted in the Police Department. It is not long before both organizations are aware that they have a mole but are not sure who the mole is. Let the games begin…
There is very little to criticize about The Departed. The cast lives up to its high expectations, a task made easier by the good characters and excellent dialogue provided by the screenwriters. In particular the supporting parts are entertaining, most notably Mark Wahlberg’s Dignam and Alec Baldwin’s Ellerby. The main characters, the aforementioned Costigan, Costello and Sullivan along with Vera Farmiga’s Madolyn, are right on tune. There is good chemistry throughout all of the many interactions and every scene meets the highest standards of believability.
Scorsese handles the story with his usual brutal realism and frank exposition of uncomfortable subjects. But whereas his early works were, in my opinion, more notable for the outstanding photography than for scintillating storytelling, his more recent efforts have eschewed the artistic pictures, opting for quality but very orthodox images along with an increased focus on the story. I can only applaud the effort, though certainly the story would not be hurt by a visual style which pushed the envelope more. No matter: the director has chosen and in my opinion he has chosen well.
Human drama and thrilling tension are woven throughout the film. There are times when the scenes will bring you to the edge of your seat. Nearly the entire movie moves well, often electing to interweave scenes together in short bursts rather than concentrating on one solitary scene and then moving on to the next. There is perhaps a bit more back story than is necessary, but it’s not overdone and the story is up and running in a respectable time frame.