Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) are two graduates of the Boston Police Academy; Colin is lured into working as a mole within the police force by local arch criminal Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson) and Billy is given a criminal profile so he can go undercover and infiltrate Costello's inner sanctum. Costello's latest caper involves micro chip sales to China with potentially catastrophic consequences, and to make things worse, he is suspected of being an FBI informer. As both moles become entangled in their jobs - and also with forensic psychologist Madolyn Madden (Vera Farmiga) - suspicions arise and both the police undercover unit and Costello's mob starts sniffing for the rat in their ranks.
Review by Louise Keller:
'I don't want to be a product of my environment,' says Jack Nicholson's Mafia boss Frank Costello, 'I want my environment to be a product of me.' As the master controlling puppeteer, Nicholson pulls the vulnerable strings of two young men who have chosen different paths. They could be brothers, but they are fundamentally different. Matt Damon's ambitious cop Colin Sullivan has no qualms about playing it rough on the road to achieving medals and glory, while Leonardo DiCaprio's street wise Billy Costigan uses dubious means to effect his honourable principles. The Departed is a tough and gritty crime thriller, tossing up the issue of morality before shooting it down in a cascade of bullets. Based on the 2002 Hong Kong drama Infernal Affairs, Martin Scorsese's film leaves you in no doubt that you have indeed seen a piece of explosive cinema. Deception is the key ingredient for the maze of mind games at the centre of the bloody violence, while the hand picked cast makes it a genuine pleasure.
Nicholson fills the screen effortlessly, and we can almost watch him thinking as he evaluates, manipulates and strong-arms every situation. There's a wonderful scene when we see him sitting in the audience watching the opera Lucia di Lammermoor. The wallpaper behind him is blood red as we see his face in close up - the very epitome of evil.
Honesty is not synonymous with truth, says Vera Farmiga's police psychiatrist, who suddenly faces her own demons as she becomes involved with both Sullivan and Costigan. Tension builds as both men learn they are facing a snitch - it is a matter of survival, both physically and mentally.
Superb editing allows us to infiltrate both worlds seamlessly and Howard Shore's score shows us yet again this talented composer's versatility. As you would expect, the violence is non-compromising and constantly confronting. But it is the morality that disturbs in the final analysis.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
It's a great and original premise for a police action drama (original in 2002 when the Hong Kong original was made, and so great it has spawned two sequels) that stands up well to transplanting from Hong Kong to Boston, given a few tweaks on the way. In the hands of Martin Scorsese, the film has beefed up, fattened out and attracted major talent, all bunched up above the title. It's still a great premise and the tension ripples off the film's muscly surface with great brio. The fattening out has not helped, though, adding unnecessary complication to the film's first half, dragging it into territory where the film's target market won't want to go: thinking and paying attention.
Scorsese has taken the material and given it the epic treatment, as if he were making another Gangs of New York, and it's to the film's detriment. He wants gravitas, not just escapism. Despite that reservation, The Departed makes for gripping entertainment. The body count is high and the impact has resonance; much of the action is focused around the characters, so the violence is in context. But it's still graphic and bloody.
With its spectacular cast doing superb work, the film's mood seeps through to the very back of your cinema seat. Nicholson keeps finding new nuances as the dangerous, possibly psychotic Costello; Wahlberg is like a clenched fist and Di Caprio is a walking time bomb as he barely eludes detection. We can see what price he would pay if caught.
Damon has the toughest role, playing a mole inside the cop shop, but he gets to unwind in the last act. Also outstanding are Alec Baldwin as the chief of detectives, and Martin Sheen as the chief of the undercover unit. Scorsese's direction, well honed on the mean streets of the movie crime scene, stages great action scenes and sudden violence. The less well controlled first half lets him play with the issues beneath the surface; his biggest triumph in The Departed is his perfect casting choices.
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DEPARTED, THE (MA15+)
CAST: Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Ray Winstone, Vera Farmiga, Anthony Anderson, Alec Baldwin
PRODUCER: Jennifer Aniston, Brad Pitt, Martin Scorsese, Graham King, Brad Grey
DIRECTOR: Martin Scorsese
SCRIPT: William Monahan (original by Alan Mak, Felix Ching)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Michael Ballhaus
EDITOR: Thelam Schoonmaker
MUSIC: Howard Shore
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Kristi Zea
RUNNING TIME: 153 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 12, 2006
RIVERSIDE SNEAK PEEK PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 4 consecutive Tuesdays - March 10, 17, 24, 31, 2015 - at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.