The Departed

 
Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Written by:William Monahan
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Ray Winstone, Vera Farmiga, Anthony Anderson, Alec Baldwin
Released: October 12, 2006
Grade: A+

Given my day job as an accountant, I’m always missing the daytime advance screenings which are held for critics.  With The Departed, I was prepared to make an exception.  The lure of director Martin Scorsese and actors Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon was just too strong.  It looked to be one of the year’s finest releases and so I cleared my Monday afternoon schedule and snuck along to check it out.

Was it worth it?  The answer is a resounding yes.  When I walked out of the cinema two and a half hours later, I had a beaming smile on my face and couldn’t wait to tell everyone just how good it was.  I’ve used this analogy before but it is films like The Departed that reaffirm why I love movies.  I can be enthralled, entranced and entertained in a way that is too hard to fully describe.  That’s enough about my own mushy feelings.  Let’s get to the point and detail the many reasons why you need to see this film.

Ruling the crime world on the streets of Boston is mafia kingpin Frank Costello (Nicholson).  The 70-year-old lives by the motto that if you want something, you take it and you don’t let anyone stand in your way.  His regular goons collect “protection money” from shop owners but it’s petty change when you consider the international drug and arms deals that Frank instigates.

The Boston State Police have been trying for years to bring Costello down but it’s proving difficult to find enough evidence and getting it to stick.  To try to gain the upper hand, recent recruit Billy Costigan (DiCaprio) has been selected to become an undercover operative in Costello’s gang.  Frank knew Billy’s father and Detectives Queenan (Sheen) and Dignam (Wahlberg) think it’ll be enough to get Frank to trust Billy and not smell a rat.

What the police don’t know is that Frank has already infiltrated their own.  Colin Sullivan (Damon) has known Frank since he was a young boy.  With Frank’s financial assistance, Colin studied law and went through the police academy.  He now has a high profile position within their special operations unit and tips Frank off when the cops are closing in.

What transpires are two simultaneous games of cat and mouse.  Colin knows that the police have an undercover operative in Costello’s gang but his identity has been kept classified.  He needs to find out who it is before he has the chance to bring Frank down.  At the same time, Billy realises that Frank is getting information from someone inside the force.  He needs to unearth and stop the source or else he runs the risk of his cover being blown.  Who will be exposed first?

Every performance from every actor is incredible.  I’d be watching Matt Damon in one scene thinking that this is the best film that he’s ever done.  Five minutes later however, I’d was saying the same thing about Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Wahlberg.  Every character acts and speaks with a tough exterior but the looks on their faces show their inner vulnerability.  They all have something to achieve but the risks are high.

If a film can hold my unrelenting attention for 149 minutes then the director must have done something right.  Martin Scorsese’s film sets a cracking pace.  There’s no time to catch your breath as the drama unfolds.  The shoot-out scenes are exactly as they should be – short and quick.  There’s plenty of coarse language and the violence is gruesome and bloody.

When you think of great mafia movies, classics such as Goodfellas (another Scorsese movie), Scarface and The Godfather come to mind.  Whilst it’s too early to include The Departed in their company (it must stand the test of time first), this is one hell of a ride that you must experience!