Review by Gordon Justesen
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio,
Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Ray Winstone, Vera
Farmiga, Alec Baldwin
Director: Martin Scorsese
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, PCM 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: See Review
Length: 151 Minutes
Release Date: February 13, 2007
“Just f**king kill me.”
“I am killing you.”
When I first saw GoodFellas thirteen years ago, I was very certain that I would never see Martin Scorsese deliver a more superior film. With Casino and Gangs of New York, he came very close to doing just that. But I seriously feel that with The Departed, Mr. Scorsese accomplished the impossible task.
And it’s not the only impossible task Scorsese pulled off with this movie. The film is also a remake of Infernal Affairs, a well-respected action movie from Hong Kong. But Scorsese’s version is a true cinematic masterpiece, thus making it one of the single greatest film remakes in history, if not THE greatest.
The film represents Scorsese’s best filmmaking elements operating at full speed. He’s the only director I know of whose films never come close to slowing down or bore in spite of a lengthy running time. And The Departed is one of few movies that have grabbed me from minute one on a first viewing and held me within its grasp for a two and a half hour running time.
The story, as far as I’m concerned, is one for the history books as far as crime movies go. Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) enters the police academy, hoping to become a Boston State Trooper. The nephew of a well-known criminal, Billy is unquestionably wanting to join the force to escape that connection.
But it’s his family’s crime connection, as well as rough upbringing, that attract the attention of a special undercover unit of the State Police, headed up by Capt. Queenan (Martin Sheen) and Sgt. Dignam (Mark Wahlberg). They end up hand picking Billy for an off-the-book assignment; to infiltrate an Irish mob led by the most wanted man in Boston, Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson). After a bit of difficulty, Billy has succeeded and has officially become the mole for the department.
Costello, however, already has a mole of his own within the State Police in the form of Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon), who Frank took into his gang at a young age. Colin slips into his role quite easily and is dedicated to the part, so much that he quickly rises to the top of the Special Investigations Unit. In other words, Colin has endless information to benefit his real boss.
So right from the beginning, we are thrown into a story with a riveting level of tension that seems to escalate with each scene. Once Billy and Colin are established moles, it doesn’t take long before they realize that leaks are coming from both sides. And with both moles trying to identify each other at the same time, the tension only grows further.
But even in the midst of this brutal game of cat-and-mouse scenario, The Departed also happens to be a riveting character piece. We see the effects the intense undercover work has on Billy, as his increasing paranoid state leads him to a painkiller addiction. And since Costello is a raving psychopath, it’s not crazy to think he’ll suspect Billy in a heartbeat.
We also see Colin’s act of deception take a huge toll on his life. Aside from becoming a respectable cop, he enters in a serious relationship with Madylon (Vera Farmiga), a psychologist working for the department. And though he is loyal to his criminal boss, Colin rarely shows signs of an evil side.
It all leads to a remarkably explosive final act, which still manages to make my jaw hit the floor no matter how many times I’ve seen it. How rare for any film to have such a riveting first and second act, only to have it knocked right out of the ballpark by a final act that really blows you away (no pun intended), leaving you wanting to experience the film again. It’s a true testament to Scorsese’s brilliance as a storyteller.
The movie also delivers fantastic results with its star-studded cast. For Mr. DiCaprio, this represents his most astonishing piece of acting yet. For me, it’s his most complete character to date. You instantly buy him as a frightened loner, you feel for him, and you certainly want him to survive in the end. Though I was most happy to see him get nominated for his performance in Blood Diamond, I really was disappointed that DiCaprio wasn’t rewarded for his work here.
The film also marks a career high point for Matt Damon. With an acting resume growing even more impressive with each film, his performance as Colin is his most remarkable one yet, and you’ll have to see the movie to realize why. In order to explain why the performance is so great, I have to reveal certain details of the final act, which I cannot do.
In addition, Nicholson is as great and scary as he’s been in a while. He makes Frank Costello into an individual you wouldn’t want to be anywhere near in real life. And it’s perhaps the first psychotic character Jack has played without going into his traditional over-the-top mode. THAT is saying something.
The supporting work is also fantastic. With the limited screen time they have, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Ray Winstone and Alec Baldwin are downright incredible. One of the early dialogue exchanges between Wahlberg and Baldwin is simply one of the funniest moments in movie history.
The film’s Oscar glory also marked one of the first times in a LONG time that me and the Academy have agreed. It won Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay and (deep breath) Scorsese his long-deserved oscar for Best Director. It was truly long overdue, and I couldn’t be happier that he was rewarded on, what I consider to be, his truest cinematic masterpiece.
The Departed is an all around work of sheer brilliance, as well as a triumph for a truly great director and one of the greatest films of all time!
I’ve viewed the standard DVD countless times and given its terrific picture quality, I expected nothing less from the Blu-ray release. But sure enough, the high-def presentation from Warner was even more astounding. All of the sharp qualities of the original release’s presentation is here, but the resolution and level of detail is twice as amazing. The picture is a wonderful case of sharp imaging, rich detail and terrific colors, and there’s nothing like watching a brilliant film in the highest quality available.
A Blu-ray release that features uncompressed audio is going to promise one hell of a presentation. When I realized that this one carried such a sound mix, I had to check it out…and it sounds phenomenal. Being a Scorsese crime saga, the expected ingredients (soundtrack, gun fire) sound incredibly remarkable, to the point that you may find yourself ducking for cover when a shootout erupts. A presentation so astounding, I was taken back to my first theatrical experience with this one.
No increase of extras...in fact, for some reason, the "Scorsese on Scorsese" documentary is nowhere to be found on this release. Included are 9 Additional Scenes with introductions by Martin Scorsese, as well as two well handled featurettes; “Casting Criminal Cultures”, which looks at how realistic neighborhood violence influenced Scorsese’s work, and “The Story of the Boston Mob”, which goes beyond the movie and explores the real life figure which inspired the character of Frank Costello. Lastly, we get the fantastic Theatrical Trailer for the movie.
For me, The Departed is not only a masterpiece from Martin Scorsese, but a definitive film in the crime/gangster genre. It’s also more riveting on Blu-ray, and it’s a release that anyone who owns such a player has to have in their collection.