Writer: Helena HonWriter Ratings:Overall: Cast: Plot: Effects: Cinematography: Watch this if you liked:
"Infernal Affairs", "Gangs of New York", "Goodfellas"
This is one film that you're going to sit crouched to your seat with your knuckles all white from gripping the hand rests, not daring to look and not daring to close your eyes either so you won't miss a beat. Well, you can thank Martin Scorsese for winding you up that tight. He has made a film so edgy, so packed with wallop and so brilliantly scripted, you hardly notice the two-and-a-half hour running time. With an A-list cast of Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon in the lead and the likes of Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen and Alec Baldwin supporting, it couldn't get any better, which is why "The Departed" is easily one of this year's best films.
The story begins in the rough neighbourhoods of Boston where Nicholson opens the scenes with a narration in that slimy drawl of his. As he talks about how he does not want to be a product of his environment but rather, wants the environment to be a product of him
, we quickly find out - through the help of a few slamming shots of dead bodies - who he is and what he does for a living. He is gangster kingpin Frank Costello, of course, and on a bad day, he kills people point blank.
We are also introduced to the two lives central to the story and very much connected to Costello - Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon). Both start out life in the streets of Boston's Irish American community presided over by Costello but it is Sullivan whom Costello has taken to, almost like father and son.
Both Sullivan and Costigan enroll in the police academy. As a cop, Sullivan is the clean-cut rising star of the Boston Police Department's Special Investigative Unit but he is also Costello's man, lured to the 'dark side' as it were, by Costello since childhood to infiltrate the police force.
Costigan, on the other hand, has more ethical motives. He just wants to be a cop to escape his working-class, criminal background. His father was a mobster too, killed long ago in a gang fight. But right after graduation, Captain Queenan (Martin Sheen) and Sgt Dignam (Mark Wahlberg) hand-pick him for the job of infiltrating Costello's inner circle.
This sets off the high-wire duel between the two informants - Costigan sending back information to the cops about Costello's plans, and Sullivan leaking police intelligence to Costello. During one very intense operation, both men realize there's a rat leaking information from the inside of both camps but neither can identify the other. The pressure mounts when Costello starts getting jumpy and pushes Sullivan to sniff out the rat in his den. Sullivan, who is
the rat in the police's unit, assigns himself the job of uncovering the spy. Meanwhile, Costigan, unhappy to be forced into a job where he has to assume the very identity he wants to escape from, begins to crack under pressure. Both moles, through furtive SMS-es and high-risk communication with their respective bosses, have to race against time to discover the identity of the other man to save himself. And as if this is not complicating enough, both Sullivan and Costigan fall for the same woman, police shrink Madeleine (Vera Farmiga), who doesn't know either of her lover's secret.
What makes Sullivan's and Costigan's predicament fascinating is that morally, they both have a conscience and this is what makes the audience feel for them. DiCaprio is the one who captivates us, he being the haunted person with an emotional burden. In many ways, this is DiCaprio's coming-of-age role - he was still a boy in a man's suit in "The Aviator" - but here you no longer see him as a boy, but someone aged and wracked by the torment, the terror and the loneliness of being stranded in no-man's land between good and evil. Damon is good too. He holds his part as the cool, ruthless brain behind the proceedings but he doesn't let in much on his character.
And Nicholson? Oh, he's electrifying, magnetising and terrifying. His role looks like it is tailor-made for him and he plays his part of the homicidal maniac like a maestro. But he doesn't dominate the scenes. Instead he complements the two younger men. Wahlberg is particularly enjoyable as the verbally abusive and foul-mouthed police sergeant. He's funny but not as funny as Alec Baldwin who doesn't appear much, but every time he does as police supervisor Ellerby, he is hilarious, thanks to his blunt, unexpectedly comic lines. I don't often laugh out loud at the movies but William Monahan's script had me chortling. It is funny, smart, and just wicked.
Scorsese has done a good job of remaking the 2002 Hong Kong crime caper "Infernal Affairs", as this is what "The Departed" is based on. Although he has retained the basic plot structure, he has added length, breadth and depth to the characters and situations, changing what was essentially a two-dimensional cop thriller into a multi-faceted masterpiece. Cinematically, the mood is intense and dark, interjected by violence that's so sudden, it hits you square in the face. And every inch of the way, Scorsese tightens the screws of tension... People, this is one movie you must not miss.Cinema Online, 23 September 2008