2. THE DEPARTED
(Photos and poster: Warner Brothers)
By Omar P.L. Moore/The Popcorn Reel
One of Martin Scorsese's best since the days of "Mean Streets" and "GoodFellas", "The Departed" signifies what this grand director does expertly: capture the texture, heat, vernacular and brotherhood of the gangster underworld. It should be said that this new film is based on the 2002 film "Infernal Affairs", the Hong Kong classic directed by Andrew Lau and Alan Mak (and third film in the "Infernal" trilogy.) Scorsese revises the Hong Kong location as South Boston, Massachusetts, where the state police have been trying in vain to bring down the Costello crime family, an Irish mob syndicate with its hands in some of the pockets of the state police's brass. Heading the syndicate is Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson) who has more than a few colorful words of wisdom for his troops. The flamboyant Costello seizes upon one Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) who has been placed by Costello in the Massachusetts state police to infiltrate the department and hunt down the "rat" who has been put by the police into Costello's inner circle. Enter Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio), a man of petty crime with no family of his own who has been forced into this thankless task. He doesn't want the responsibility nor the fanfare. He just wants to be left alone, which the relentless, foul-mouthed and in-your-face exploits of Sergeant Dignam (Mark Wahlberg) and endless questions by police psychologist Marilyn Maddon (Vera Farmiga) won't make easy.
All of these scenarios and more set the stage for a tense, suspenseful finale when the cat-and-mouse game reaches a fever pitch. There are surprises, thrilling twists and turns, and lots of violence. A word of advice: if you haven't seen "Infernal Affairs" then watch "The Departed" first. Excellent performances all around, particularly from DiCaprio and Wahlberg, with the best ensemble cast of the year (including Martin Sheen, Ray Winstone and Alec Baldwin). Scorsese directs this film with a precision and inevitability -- the scope of the material, the locations and the foreshadowing are marvelously laid out on this magician's celluloid canvas. A terrific soundtrack (the best of the year after "Dreamgirls") features the grandeur of The Rolling Stones, Van Morrison, Roger Waters, and The Band, Patsy Cline, The Beach Boys, Roy Buchanan and film composer Howard Shore, among others.
"The Departed" is an amazing, phenomenal film with a crackling original screenplay by William Monahan. Mr. Monahan's razor-sharp dialogue is priceless. Surely Mr. Scorsese scores Oscar gold in February 2007 -- he richly deserves it for this film, which reverberates in the mind after its conclusion.
The PopcornReel.com "The Departed" film review first appeared on October 6, 2006.