The Departed ****
Over the last few years, the name Martin Scorsese has been met with apprehension. While he is a legend, and the director of such masterpieces as "Goodfellas," and "Raging Bull," his last few films haven't been the most iconic. Having never won an Oscar, I'm grateful that his first wasn't for "Gangs of New York," or "The Aviator," two very good films, but nothing memorable as the years past. But now things are a little different. Returning to the gangster genre that he perfected, Scorsese is back to form with "The Departed," an engaging, grim, tragic, and darkly comic masterpiece that happens to be one of the best films I've seen all year, and by far the most entertaining. It was a good choice for Scorsese to return back to this genre, as maybe now he'll get that Oscar that has been due to him for the last few decades. And for this, I think he deserves it.
"The Departed" is the story of two moles, neither of which knows the other's true identity. The first is Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio), a cadet at a police training camp. After being pinned out by Captain Queenan and Sergeant Dignam (Martin Sheen and Mark Wahlberg), it becomes apparent that they want him to infiltrate the South Boston mob of Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson). After spending a few years in prison as a way to divert any attention from the fact that he tried to become a cop. Costigan successfully manages to get himself into Costello's circle. In another unit of the force there is Captain Ellerby (Alec Baldwin), who wants to nab Costello for selling illegal items to the Chinese. His leading man on the job is Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon), who is rising fast in popularity on the force. His life even seems on the rise, especially after starting a relationship with the beautiful Madolyn (Vera Farmiga), the psychiatrist at the station. However, what everybody doesn't know is that Sullivan knows Costello, and has ever since he befriended him as a little boy. Costello trusts him more than anyone, which is why he chose him to go to police training camp and become a rat there. The police get closer and closer to being able to nab Costello for his actions, but he begins to get suspicious. He starts to get the idea that he has a rat in his crew. Costigan tries to get the information regarding Costello to Queenan and Dignam without being caught by him, and Sullivan does what he can to not get caught when he is assigned to catch the spy on the force, who is him.
"The Departed" is a film all about identity. During the opening scenes, a classic Scorsese montage that introduces all the films central characters to the tune of the some best music you can hear, Costello says to young Sullivan, "When I was your age, they would say that you could become cops, or you could become criminals. But when you're facing a loaded gun, what's the difference?" Playing on that theme of "what's the difference," Scorsese is able to effectively tell his story, giving many equal characteristics to both DiCaprio and Damon's characters, especially when Costigan begins an affair with Madolyn, and then her becoming pregnant. We never really do find out whose baby it is, but then again, what's the difference? Funny story, I even remember being at work one day, when a young kid came out of the movie saying how confusing it was. He claims that he was even having trouble determining who was who, since the two main characters looked so much alike. I guess the phrase "what's the difference," applies there too, even though I didn't really see much of a resemblence.
The cast is absolutely exceptional, and it's obvious that everyone was having a great time, especially Nicholson. Over the last decade or so, he's been drifting from the bad guy role, ala "The Shining," and going more towards the warm and delightful comedy roles. After all, he did do an Adam Sandler movie, and "Something's Gotta Give" in a row. He is terrific as a comedic actor, but nothing beats Jack in a bad guy role. He has this way of distorting his face, and creating some of the best facial expressions that you can see, but never duplicate. Take one scene where Costello does an impression of a rat. He is able to buck his teeth and roll his eyes in the back of his head while making the sounds a rat makes. I've tried, but I can't seem to redo it. Even DiCaprio was fantastic here, an actor who I never find anything amazing about. I still don't understand what Scorsese sees in him, casting him in three movies in a row, with a fourth on the way, although peaks of what he does see come out here. Alec Baldwin brings some comedy to the film a bit with his small role, and Mark Walhberg manages to use every single variation of the "F" word that I can think of, but then again so do all the other characters.
Looking back, it does have a few minor flaws. For example, a random cocaine scene featuring Jack Nicholson and two women seems to have been inserted in the film way after it was edited, for no reason other than to show Jack with a glossy look on his eyes as he throws the powder at the women. It's short, but seemed worthless, to a film that is long enough. At two and a half hours, "The Departed" does take time out of your day, but it doesn't feel very long at all. Scorsese is certainly the master of pacing, and through all of his films, "Taxi Driver," "Goodfellas," "Casino, even though they are two hours to three hours long, each minute feels like two. Scorsese is a quick storytelling with long running times. That seems to be a great way to describe him. And even though it has a few small flaws, "The Departed" is so entertaining that you forgive it, and don't even notice them until well after you left the theater. The last half hour is full of twists and turns, and blood and gore, but I guarantee that if you see one twist coming, there is one right around the corner that you won't see. And the final image has an ingenious visual that it is the first thing that pops into my head whenever I think about this. "The Departed" is indeed a true Scorsese masterpiece, and sure to become a gangster/cop classic. It brings hope to whoever was starting to have their doubts about Scorsese, but it prove that whether or not Scorsese has an Oscar or not, what's the difference? He's still got the power to make a master film. Sure to be on my Top Ten at the end of the year.