Is The Departed a masterpiece?

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Last night I sat down to watch ‘The Departed’ for the first time in a number of years.

Honestly, I didn’t remember too much, except for the fact that director Martin Scorsese really hit the nail on the head with this movie; it is quite the masterpiece.

The premise of 2006’s ‘The Departed’ is actually quite simple: 2 men, both with fake facades, secretly working as moles for their respective bosses. While it is easily described, this is no clear-cut movie; a watchful and focused eye is a must for the complete 151-minute run-time, otherwise, you may find yourself being departed.

Everything that occurs in the movie revolves around one man, the notorious Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson). Costello is the main antagonist and immediately establishes himself as one with power, and one to fear. The movie opens with a sly voiceover by Costello, where he invites viewers into his cunning outlook on life, followed by his first initiation with Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon).

Costello takes Sullivan under his supervision and models him into the perfect rat, worker, and associate for the Irish-American mob. Needless to say, their chemistry is superb and their ability to secretly work together is too.

On the other end of the spectrum is Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio).

Watching a younger Leo is always nice. He has always managed to perform at great levels, despite never being awarded or recognized for his efforts (we hope he will for ‘The Revenant’ – here is our review). Costigan is an undercover special agent infiltrating Costello’s.

‘The Departed’ draws inspiration from the 2002 Hong Kong film ‘Internal Affairs’, one of the most successful Asian films to date. I must say, the title for the Chinese film seems a lot smarter and more fitting than that of the 2006 version. However, that is the only area that ‘Internal Affairs’ has the upper hand; Scorsese manages to transpose the foreign elements of that film and create a version with an extra 50 minutes, a star-studded cast, a memorable score and all the beloved Scorsese-isms found in almost all of his films.

When you combine legends like Scorsese, DiCaprio, Damon, Nicholson, Sheen and Wahlberg in one movie, you know you are in for a treat.

The acting was fluid, crisp and almost flawless. Such a remarkable cast reminds me of the cast of ‘Pulp Fiction’; full of champion actors, some of whom had only just begun to make it big. Mark Wahlberg stood out and stole the show, and any time he was on screen, I was fully invested and excited to see what came next. He was absolutely hilarious, dropping rude and very inappropriate jokes and comments, and arrived at the perfect time to provide some heartfelt closure at the end of the film.

Costello and Sullivan Thanks to www.popmatters.com for the image.
Costello and Sullivan
Thanks to www.popmatters.com for the image.

There is a certain element of the film that I can easily compare to another Scorsese film, which I believe is his best film, and even one of the greatest films of all time, ‘Goodfellas’. Both have intimidating mob-bosses with seemingly unlimited dominance, who educate and familiarise a youngster to one day be responsible for their dirty work. Both films’ opening scenes are so similar in their themes, messages and production – so much so that they are fairly interchangeable; they both share the same atmosphere and feeling.

Unfortunately, there were a few issues I had while watching ‘The Departed’.

Firstly, the pacing was far too slow for my liking. The first half an hour felt like an absolute drag, and sitting through it was difficult. The only thing that was keeping me going was experiencing the epic climax and final chapter of the film. Other than the pacing, I found the storytelling to be slightly convoluted and difficult to understand at times; too many characters, too many plot-points, too much deceit and confusion.

The film definitely deserves it’s ‘R’ rating; it is very graphic and filled to the brim with blood and gore, never leaving anything to the imagination. There was blood flying everywhere, in a somewhat Tarantino-esque style, spilling on bodies, walls and anything else you could envisage. Parents, be cautious with allowing your young children to watch ‘The Departed’.

With a chase scene down a dark alley that had my heart pounding, making me feel like I was watching an extremely similar chase present in ‘Se7en’, ‘The Departed’ is a great film. If you commit yourself to the lengthy duration of the film, it’s characters and sometimes hard to understand plot, you will reap a great reward; a unique and memorable cinematic experience, almost like no other. ‘The Departed’ is one of those films that for years to come will have ambitious directors and writers attempting to mimic and recreate its beauty and brilliance, qualities that are credited to Scorsese and his team of actors, whose talent truly shines through. A witty and clever, yet subtle ending with a rat crawling along a banister.

My Rating: 8.5/10

“I don’t want to be a product of my environment, I want my environment to be a product of me.”

 

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