Urban film making at its best, The Departed is a brutally violent, beautifully crafted, and incredibly well acted piece of film making that will leave you reeling.
A remake of the Chinese crime epic Infernal Affairs, director Martin Scorsese and writer William Monaghan have taken a foreign classic and have recreated it into an excellent American crime thriller, which belongs in the top tier of Scorsese’s acclaimed filmography.
Scorsese and crime movies have always gone together like milk and chocolate, yet in the case of The Departed it has been 11 years since the Italian American filmmaker ventured into the world of mobsters, with the 1995 classic Casino his last foray. Pleased to say that not only has Scorsese returned to the crime genre in style, but he has also delivered one of his best films in doing so.
Billy Costigan (Leonardo Di Caprio) is a young undercover cop assigned to infiltrate the Irish mob led by the ruthless Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson), who has his own mole planted in the Boston Special Investigation Unit named Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon).
As both men get deep undercover, the pressure of living a double life starts to bear down on them, only for the stakes to get even higher when both sides find out that they are being watched from the inside, leaving only a matter of time for one to find who the other is.
Leonardo Di Caprio finally delivers a performance worthy of the trust that Scorsese has put in him with this, their third collaboration, their best. A fine actor whose baby faced looks have always held him back, Di Caprio has shed his weaknesses finally growing into himself and delivering an excellent performance as an undercover cop who slowly descends into a nervous wreck, popping pills by the handful while trying not to get his head blown off.
Matt Damon is also great as the traitor in blue, whose double life eats away at him psychologically and spiritually, with the occasional glance at the Catholic Church which he has turned his back on, a symbol of his spiritual suffering.
The only source of comfort for both men comes from Madelyn (Vera Farmiga), a psychiatrist who becomes personally involved with both men, a sub plot that while others have said to be the film's lone weakness, is actually essential in easing the tension and adding more depth to Di Caprio's and Damon's characters, Farmiga more than able to stand toe to toe with the two leading men.
Fine support comes from Mark Whalberg as the foul mouthed Sergeant Dignam, while veteran actors Martin Sheen and Alec Baldwin are also top notch. Yet it is Jack Nicholson who steals the show as Frank Costello, the sadistic mob boss whose un-PC, unpredictable nature the perfect treat for Nicholson to sink his teeth into, which he does with much ferocity turning in one of his best performances in the process.
Yet this is a Scorsese movie through and through, and with longtime editor Thelma Schoomaker by his side, Monaghan’s witty and exhilarating words as his guide, and an excellent ensemble cast at his helm, The Departed is sure to become another Scorsese classic.