|The Departed (2006)
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Ray Winstone, Vera Farmiga, Alec Baldwin, James Badge Dale
Director: Martin Scorsese
Category: Suspense / Action
When news broke that Martin Scorsese would be directing a loose adaptation of the 2002 Hong Kong action/thriller, “Infernal Affairs,” film geeks everywhere feared the worst. The film is practically the Asian equivalent of “The Godfather," and was such a blockbuster success when it debuted overseas that it spawned a prequel and sequel (respectively) much in the same vein of the famous crime drama. Many would probably even charge Marty with selling out after failing to win an Oscar for the umpteenth time, and you wouldn’t be wrong to do so. This is by far the director’s most commercial film yet, but it’s also his best since “Goodfellas,” and though the story drags on longer than it probably should, Scorsese and his ensemble cast do an amazing job with staying faithful in their translation.
The film opens “some time ago” with the introduction of crime kingpin Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson) and his first meeting with Colin Sullivan, an innocent kid whom the gangster eventually takes under his wing. Several years later, Colin is all grown up (Matt Damon) and has become a rising star within the Massachusetts state police department. His loyalties, however, still lie with Costello, who has him working as a mole. At the same time, police captain Oliver Queenan (Martin Sheen) inserts an undercover agent of his own into Costello’s crime syndicate – textbook cadet Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) – with the hope that he can finally take down Boston’s most dangerous man. But when Colin and Billy discover that a spy is working from inside their respective organizations, an enthralling game of cat-and-mouse is set into motion, with both men looking to expose the other before their own cover is blown.
Carefully following the basic outline of the original film (including key sequences and plot devices), “The Departed” does stray a bit from the source material, but it never loses focus. In fact, the only two major changes include a bigger emphasis on humor (mostly with Mark Wahlberg and Alec Baldwin’s characters, who both play police sergeants) and a slightly different ending that guarantees you’ll never see a sequel. It also speaks well of the director, who didn’t cop out of shooting the ultra-violent finale. Some viewers may find it to be a bit disappointing, but I couldn’t disagree more. It might even be better than the original ending, despite the fact that the 30 minutes leading up to it is an absurd merry-go-round of who’s who.
Like many of Scorsese's films, “The Departed" does run a little long (a few edits certainly could’ve helped with this), but most of the film zips by like one big musical montage. The scenes are crammed together closer than a comic book layout, with some literally leaking into the next, and it really helps to keep the story moving along. DiCaprio, Damon and Nicholson all deliver as expected, but Wahlberg just about steals the show as Queenan's right-hand man. The supporting cast is also fantastic, and while Vera Farmiga gets her share of screen time as the psychiatrist love interest of both men, guys like Ray Winstone ("Sexy Beast") and James Badge Dale ("24") also deliver memorable turns in smaller roles.
What’s most interesting about “The Departed,” though, is that while Scorsese probably knows not to expect any nominations come awards time, he’s deserving of one now more than ever. And for as weak as the list of potential nominees is looking, I wouldn’t be surprised if the film managed to steal a couple statues along the ways. Who knows, maybe his third team-up with DiCaprio really will be the charm.
The two-disc special edition of “The Departed” isn’t nearly as special as it should be. For starters, not a single audio commentary has been included in the mix, while the rest of the bonus features are hardly worthy of an entirely separate disc. TCM profiles the director in “Scorsese on Scorsese,” “Stranger Than Fiction” tells the story behind the real-life gangster that inspired Jack Nicholson’s character, and “Crossing Criminal Cultures” discusses Scorsese’s criminal influences. Also featured on the set are nine deleted scenes with introductions, but that doesn’t make this disc any less of a disappointment.