Over the years Martin Scorsese has brought us some incredible movies; "GoodFellas," "Casino," and "Raging Bull" are just a few of his well-known line-up that come to mind. "The Departed" had some pretty big shoes to fill, but thankfully, it managed to do just that. Loosely based on the Hong Kong action flick "Internal Affairs," it might seem "The Departed" is just another action flick. But "The Departed" is much more sophisticated than your run-of-the-mill action film and Martin Scorsese is not about to let us forget it.
Taking place in South Boston, Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a rookie cop who grew up in crime and the majority of his family is still steeped in it. Because of his connections, his superiors assign him to be a mole and join the leagues of mob-boss Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson) so that they can gain evidence for an arrest. In order to do this, he must give up every part of his identity...go to jail...build a reputation...and let Costello gain some trust in him. Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) is Costello's spy and he infiltrates the police department easily with no criminal history and a spotless record. He uses his knowledge and position in the Special Investigation Unit to protect Costello and move Costello and his gang around the city without the police being able to pinpoint their location. Eventually, the cops figure out they have a spy in SIU and Costello figures out there is a rat inside his gang...the resulting frenzy of action as both sides try to determine who is the rat in their own group is very dramatic and leads to definite action-filled moments as Costigan and Sullivan desire to gain control back so that their secrets remain safe.
Scorsese does an incredible job with a genre that has generally been overdone and overplayed. The good cop-bad cop story has been done so many times, but never so brilliantly. Throughout "The Departed" we are taken on a series of twists and turns, with the main focus on the characters of the two moles...we continually discover something new about Costigan and Sullivan and see how increasingly desperate they become to protect themselves as their respective positions become more and more precarious. Both Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon bring their characters alive on screen. They each have believable limitations, but Jack Nicholson's character Costello toys skillfully with them to get them to do what he wants despite their personal flaws.
With a great supporting cast of Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, and Alec Baldwin, this 154-minute piece of artwork moves smoothly from scene to scene. As the story continues to unfold, each supporting cast member plays an equally important part making "The Departed" such a great film.
My favorite part about "The Departed" is Scorsese's amazing ability to entertain. It is pretty obvious that Scorsese didn't want this just to be another action movie, and we really get to see the passion behind how Scorsese puts his work together to make a well-rounded movie. "The Departed" is intelligent and has enough twists and turns to keep you on the edge of your seat the entire time.
I have been really lucky recently with the movies that I have had the opportunity to review. Coming off of my high from "Babel," I was getting ready for a letdown because I didn't know what could actually compete with it.
"The Departed" lives up to everything that everyone has been hoping for. The picture quality is absolutely near perfect. The colors are fantastic, skin tones are spot on, and the amount of detail is fantastic. Even when we get outside during the late night hours, the colors remain sharp and are very accurate. Another great aspect was the very subtle noise that was ever present. I know some people don't like a lot of noise...but there isn't a lot of noise, there is just a bit. And like "Babel," it helps to tell the story. It really gives us the dirty, grimy feel that Scorsese was looking for. On the other hand though, there isn't near as much grain as "Babel" had in it.
The video in "The Departed" is top-notch, one of the best transfers I have seen to date. This definitely jumps to the top of my short list of titles that I can truly use for a video reference. It isn't "perfect," but it is very close. There were times when just a little more detail could have been nice. When I think of "perfect" I think of the pool scene in "Crank," where every drop of water can be seen running down Jason Statham's unshaved face. When I compare "The Departed" to that one scene in Crank, it definitely isn't "perfect," but it just might be as close as you can get throughout the entire film.
Another area that "The Departed" excels is in it's cinematography. Every scene is shot incredibly well, with the idea that they need to capture the audience's attention and hold onto it with added surprises and great camera angles. One scene in particular is a chase scene between Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon. DiCaprio comes from behind a corner on a busy street and is hit with fog and beautiful colored lights from all around the busy nightlife. The way the scene captures your emotions is extrodinary.
Presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 PCM and Dolby Digital 5.1. I have to be completely honest and say that I am a little disappointed with the audio. I am not sure if it is because I had remembered more action scenes with a lot of gunfire when "The Departed" was in the theaters, or if I am just getting really picky. Don't get me wrong; there are some very intense scenes that live up to the expectations with sound. The majority of "The Departed" is dialogue, mixed with a good soundtrack, and then some nice surround sound.
During the dialogue, the surrounds get good use because there tends to be something else happening in the background. Some good scenes with a lot of gunfire will beat in your ears and truly make you feel as if you are there. Overall, I was happy with the transfer; it was great, but again, not perfect with some pitchy highs and lightly used surrounds.
Stranger then Fiction: The True Story of Whitey Bulger, Southie and the Departed- This a really nice documentary about the history of the South Boston Mob and their relationship with the FBI. I really enjoyed listening to Martin Scorsese talk about the history and how it affected the outcome of the movie. Listening to cops and people that lived in the time of Whitey Bulger and their thoughts about who he was and what he did was very interesting as well. All together, this was a good documentary that is definitely worth a look to get a look at how "The Departed," and Whitey Bulger relate. The one thing the documentary stresses is that "The Departed" is not about Whitey Bulger!
Crossing Criminal Cultures- This is an okay feature, detailing Martin Scorsese's upbringing in Little Italy and how that affected his career in making movies...namely Mob movies. During his childhood Scorsese saw a lot of organized crime and that is a huge part of this feature, talking about organized crime and it's effects on how Scorsese's filming process is achieved. There are also several movie clips in which they explain how they relate to "The Departed," or used to show Scorsese's other work. This one could be skipped and you wouldn't miss much.
Deleted Scenes: 9 deleted scenes, some that are just extended scenes, but they don't really add much value to the special features. Scoreses does introduce each one of the scenes and lets us know if he liked them, and why they were cut out.
"The Departed" is on top of a very short list of great Mob movies. Especially because it can appeal to the general audiences...it isn't an artsy movie that some turn away from, but has that broad appeal that everyone can enjoy. With incredible performances all-around from both the lead characters and the supporting cast, they drive "The Departed" into greatness. The video transfer is one of the best I have seen and the audio is solid. "The Departed" stands out to be one of the best films of last year. I can Highly Recommend this one!