Wednesday, October 25, 2006
The Departed review
Some believe that Martin Scorsese is the greatest film director of his generation. But the Oscar is the one thing that has eluded him through his career. And historically his films have not performed well at the box office. With The Departed, Scorsese has returned to the familiar gritty territory that has earned him acclaim in the past. The Departed is an adaptation of Andy Lau's Hong Kong hit Infernal Affairs. It was originally to star Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Wahlberg, Robert DeNiro & Brad Pitt. DeNiro dropped out to make The Good Shepherd and was replaced by Jack Nicholson. Pitt was replaced by Matt Damon but still gets a producer credit. That's still a very high powered cast.
Though The Departed was shot mostly in New York City, it's set in the Irish criminal underworld of Boston. Why Boston? Screenwriter William Monahan (Kingdom of Heaven) is from Boston. The story centers around Boston crime kingpin Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson) and the efforts of the Massachusetts State Police to put him behind bars. Costello has been around a long time and he's not very subtle so why is it taking them so long? Well, it's a common plot device in crime stories to make the police incredibly stupid and this one is no different. The guys in charge played by Alec Baldwin & Martin Sheen are idiots. I guess there's no movie if you make them smart. The police plant undercover detective Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) in Costello's gang. Costigan tips his bosses that Costello plans to sell stolen computer chips to Chinese buyers. This is their big chance to get Costello. But they screw it up, partially because of incompetence but mostly because team member Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) is working for Costello. There's plenty of gunplay and even an explosion or two. But the main strength of The Departed is the dialogue and the interaction between the various characters. I suspect a lot of the dialogue was improvised on the set. Also, cellphones are very important to this story.
The Departed is an action packed film and doesn't seem two and a half hours long. Scorsese gets strong performances from all his actors. Nicholson is hilariously evil. He said he took the role because he was tired of doing comedies. Other than Damon & Wahlberg, who are from Boston, none of the other actors can do a Boston accent. Wait until you hear DiCaprio try a South African accent in Blood Diamond. Scorsese's direction is very tight but a lot of credit should go to his longtime collaborators editor Thelma Schoonmaker & cinematographer Michael Ballhaus. And Howard Shore's score works well and Scorsese's use of music is perfect as usual. The Departed will satisfy longtime Scorsese fans longing for him to return to his roots. And fans of the various actors will enjoy it as well. It's too early to tell if The Departed will earn Scorsese that long awaited Oscar but with Dreamgirls looming, it's doubtful that he will get it. The film has done the best at the box office of any of Scorsese's films.