The Departed

Martin Scorsese is probably only one of a handful of directors who can get together a cast of this caliber: Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Alec Baldwin, and I’m probably missing a few. Now of course all that talent doesn’t guarantee a good film but Scorsese directing almost always means at least an interesting one.

Especially when he’s returning to his roots: the high powered crime drama. The Departed is a remake of the Chinese film Infernal Affairs. It concerns a cop working deep undercover in an organized crime ring. Meanwhile, the crime lord has a mole in the police station. The two are aware that each other exists but they don’t know their identities. They race each other to find out.

DiCaprio, who has now completly replaced Robert Diniro as Scorsese’s lead of choice, plays Billy Costigan, the undercover cop. He’s a straight shooter from a crooked family, which makes him ideal for the assignment of infiltrating Frank Costello’s (Jack Nicholson) crew. Matt Damon plays Colin Sullivan, Costanzo’s mole.

The performances are as pyrotechnic as you’d expect from this cast. DiCaprio especially smoulders his way through the film as a tough south Boston kid trying to do the right thing. Matt Damon is sleazy and charismatic as the ambitious crooked cop. Jack Nicholson’s Frank Costanzo is a little over the top in some places but it’s still a great performance. Vera Famiga, who’s been doing a lot of TV and supporting movie work since 1997 according to IMDB, is terrific as Madolyn a commited psychologist treating Costigan and living with Sullivan.

The Departed isn’t a perfect film. It drags in places especially toward the end. The denoument is troubling but that may be a choice. And then there’s the problem of Mark Wahlberg’s hair.

But there are sequences in this film that you will never forget. Damon and DiCaprio on  cellphones just listening to each other breathing and wondering who the other one is and what they know. DiCaprio cleaning up a convenience store with a couple of goons from Providence. And toward the end when both men are hot on the trail of each other and you really don’t know who’s going to get there first.

The Departed is one of the best films of the year so far.

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