Hallelujah, praise the white movie gods! It took him six nominations, an olympic pool of tears and a lot of crawling (literally), but Leo has finally received the Academy Award for ‘Best Actor’. In celebration of Leonardo DiCaprio’s long awaited Oscar; a throwback to his third, and arguably most popular, cooperation with director Martin Scorsese, The Departed.
Frank Costello, played by Jack Nicholson, is an Irish gang boss in Boston. He takes the orphaned Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) under his wing, who then joins the police force as a mole. At the same time, Boston’s undercover unit sends in Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) to infiltrate Costello’s gang. Soon enough, they find out about each other’s existence and it becomes a race to see who can expose the other.
So The Departed is actually a remake of Infernal Affairs that came out in Hong Kong, four years prior to the American version. I’m not going to discuss whether it’s better but I highly recommend watching it to anyone who can stand subtitles. Or…you know, understands Cantonese. It is one of the best Hong Kong movies to date and most of the iconic scenes from The Departed come straight out of Infernal Affairs. That said, The Departed is a wonderful and exciting piece of cinema that shows off Scorsese’s strengths.
“I don’t want to be a product of my environment. I want my environment to be a product of me.” -Frank Costello
Saving the best for last is for virgins and dropouts so let’s cut straight to the best part, the editing. Five minutes into the movie and the tone is already set for the remaining 146 minutes. Long before the title screen even pops up, we get the crime boss’ shady introduction while seeing the young Colin Sullivan being drawn towards him. All the while being supported by The Rolling Stones’ energetic ‘Gimme Shelter’. The movie continues by constantly cutting between Damon’s and DiCaprio’s characters, rising in ranks as an officer and a gang member respectively. Receiving the Oscar for ‘Best Editing’ was definitely not for show. Combine this with Scorsese’s dynamic directing plus a stellar cast and we’ve got ourselves an extraordinary two-way game of hide-and-seek (on coke).
Talking about cast, we’ve got: Jack Nicholson, nearing his end but extravagant as always; Leonardo DiCaprio, already playing consistently strong roles; Mark Wahlberg, playing the same dickhead roles he plays today; Martin Sheen, looking a bit tired; Matt Damon, getting us confused between Wahlberg and him; and Alec Baldwin as…well, Alec Baldwin. All of them perform terrifically though and the film maintains a stable balance between its myriad of characters.
The big action scenes were a bit on the dull side and the film would have profited from losing a subplot or two. But all in all, The Departed is rightfully one of the most popular movies of the 2000’s. It’s an intense crime thriller that will keep you on your feet. And never forget, it was one of the gazillion steps Leonardo DiCaprio took to get where he is now; hugging a little statue of a gold-plated, naked man in his sleep.
Director: Martin Scorsese (Oscar for ‘Best Director’)
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jack Nicholson, Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg (‘Best Supporting Actor’)
Duration: 151 minutes
When to watch? -now, you owe it to Leo