Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen
I watched this yesterday, and it was frankly one of the hardest films I've ever had to sit through. Not that it's bad, it just had a lot of everything. A lot of violence, a lot of cussing and a lot of censorship cuts. Tough. But I persevered luckily.
The Departed is adapted from the critically acclaimed Hong Kong movie Infernal Affairs, about the battle between the police and the mafia using moles within each other's organisations. I had not watched the original in its entirety, and I intend to once I get the opportunity. Many people who have watched both films have made comparisons. I hope I can stray from that in this review.
The Hollywood version takes place in South Boston, where the street crime is run by Frank Costello, a smart, vicious and always-in-control kingpin. To nail him, police captain Queenan and sergeant Dignam pick a new recruit from the force, Billy Costigan to go deep undercover and infiltrate Costello's gang. They pick Costigan because he comes from a family that has criminal history, plus Costello knew his late father.
Costello on the other hand also has a spy within the police force. Colin Sullivan, whom Costello watched over and supported since he was a boy, is now a member of the Boston police force. Sullivan acts as an informant, keeping Costello updated on the police's operations. Trouble begins when both sides discover the existence of a mole within their midst. Costigan and Sullivan are forced to race against each other to find out who it is, risking their covers being blown.
Scorsese chooses to film this as realistically as he sees fit. And unfortunately that involves showing violence and profanity in huge spades. When people get shot, it's usually in the head, with lots of blood spattered. Every other sentence spoken by the leads has a foul word in it, usually the one that begins with 'F'. Mark Wahlberg must have said that word at least 50 times throughout the film. And he's actually the worst thing about The Departed, because other than being foul-mouthed and having an appearance in the final scene, his character Dignam has no real importance here.
DiCaprio however is very convincing as Costigan. He hates the job given to him, and he struggles trying to make sense of it. The intensity on his face says it all. His character is afraid of the possibility of being discovered and eventually killed, and Leo pulls off that performance well. Damon is also quite good as Sullivan, but his character's motives are somewhat confusing. There are moments where Damon tries to humanise Sullivan, but in the end the character comes off somewhat selfish and unrepentant, unlike the original film. Perhaps we can pin the blame on Scorsese or screenplay adapter William Monahan for that mistake.
Nicholson does a great job playing Costello, and you can see him having fun with the role. However there are several times during the film where he seems to be enjoying it too much. Too many scenes, some either too long or unnecessary, featuring him in it, could have been edited out. Then maybe the 152 minute film would have been easier to watch. At least that's what i think. And the ending of the film feels rushed. A lot of violence takes place at the end, and this not only ruins the pacing but also makes it look like Scorsese wanted a typical Hollywood ending.
I am definitely going to look for the original film Infernal Affairs on DVD, I hear it's so much better. But to Scorsese's credit, it's watchable. However, if you're not a fan of Leonardo DiCaprio or you hate violence and really foul language, stay away from this. (3.5/5)