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The Departed (2006)

November 25, 2009

7/10 Cahs Pahked in Hahvahd Yahd

I’m well aware of the heat I might be catching for this one, but this was not the best movie of ’06. Letters From Iwo Jima got robbed.

The Departed is about two moles: one’s a Boston cop who finds himself deep undercover as the right-hand man to a kingpin in the Irish mob, the other’s a member of the said Irish mob who finds himself deep undercover in the upper-ranks of the Boston police force. One is trying to take down the mob from the inside out, the other is trying to protect the mob from the outside in, and both are trying to get each other killed so they can do their damn job.

Pretty crazy stuff.

It’s all based pretty closely off a Chinese movie called Infernal Affairs that came out in ’02, only this time there’s cell phones and text messaging instead of lame-ass morse code – Neat! But if you haven’t seen it, give it a whirl. The plot is better in a lot of ways even if the script isn’t as strong in others.

Anyway, let’s start with the good then move our way down.

If there’s one Oscar this movie did deserve – and one painfully patient individual who deserved it even more – it was for directing. It might not be his best movie (I smell a weekly poll…) but if there’s anyone out there who knows how to make crime thrillers look good to both movie geeks and Joe the plumber, it’s Martin Scorsese. There’s a lot going on in this movie and Scorsese does one hell of a job of keeping his audience’s attention from start to finish all the while infusing it with his signature style that you can’t take your eyes off of. This is one of those movies that’s good to go back and watch a second time around just to pick up on the directorial flair and subtleties that helped win this guy the Oscar. It had been a while since he’d done something I liked, but come on, it’s Martin Scorsese. Dude’s a legend.

And does anyone remember those scenes where there’d be this long shot of Matt Damon or Leo and the whole screen would zoom in black until it just looked like you were seeing them through a peephole? Still trying to figure out the meaning behind that, but hey, still dug it.

Unfortunately, everything else kinda has a double-edged sword it.

The acting here is pretty damn good for the most part, but there were still some performances that I’m not too big on. You know what, Jack Nicholson was one mean bastard as Irish mob boss Frank Costello. It’s too bad he had to make that damn rat face and start ad-libbing all over the place (you know what scene I’m talking about), because if it weren’t for that, he would have gotten a lot more praise. All the same, it’s no skin off his back. Jack Nicholson’s the man, what else is there to say?

Matt Damon’s actually pretty solid as Costello’s mole; well, he’s been pretty solid ever since he took on Jason Bourne. So way to go, Matt. But I’m sorry, folks, Leo still isn’t doing it for me. Yeah, he’s all serious and shit now, but he could afford to tone it down a bit. I already went off on about this in my Revolutionary Road review, so I’m gonna try not to dwell on this. It’s not that he’s a bad actor by any means, I just think he’s getting a lot more credit than he’s due right now. Yes, he’s come a long way since Jack, but the guy is still overacting like a mofo and he can’t pull off a Boston accent for his life. I couldn’t believe it when I heard him talking like that again in the Shutter Island trailer (which actually looks pretty good). I don’t know, maybe it’s me.

And am I just crazy or is there anyone else out there who thinks that the two best performances here were from Mark Wahlberg and Alec Baldwin? Not only did these guys have the best lines but they were arguably the coolest characters in the movie, too. These were the two actors I found myself talking about every time this movie came up in conversation, and while Marky Mark didn’t deserve the Oscar either, I’m glad he got a nod at least.

Martin Sheen‘s also good, but Martin Sheen’s always good.

The other pro and con here is the script. For the most part, the script kicks ass. It’s a really impressive adaptation with lots of great, sharp dialogue, it keeps the suspense up for the entire duration, and it’s jam-packed with very well-written characters. There’s really not much you can knock it for…except for one thing: the last 15 minutes of the movie.

Honestly, what the fuck was that about?

Up until the point where the shit hits the fan at 100 mph, I was really digging this movie. Man, I about laughed out loud in the theater by the time the final scene was over. Without giving it away (at least I hope I’m not), I just couldn’t believe that all the time this movie spent building up these characters and their circumstances was essentially just tossed to the wind in one fell swoop. Just a bad way to end a movie, dare I say it was a cop-out.

But flaws aside, The Departed is still a good movie. It does a lot of things right, it’s a wild story, it’s a great return to form for Scorsese, and since the guy’s got one swell taste in music, there’s a fantastic soundtrack here to boot (even if everyone is sick and tired of that “…AND I LOST MY LEG!” song by the Dropkick Murphys). Might not have been my #1 pick for ’06, might not have even been in my top five, but I can see why I might be in the minority here.

And the discussion board is now open…

16 Comments leave one →
  1. November 25, 2009 6:31 am

    good review AR, we pitted the Departed against Goodfellas a good while back in a battle – both great movies but i think im warming to the Depahted more now.
    i disagree with you completely about Leo – he carries the movie dude, and this is from someone who has taken a long time to warm to the DiCap.
    and the ending is great – a real bolt out of the blue – it elevates the movie, it doesnt detract from it.

    im a supporter of the theory that Mark Wahlberg didnt actually know he was playing a part in a movie and was just continually asked by Scorsese to describe what he thought of Matt Damon.
    Baldwin is great too – dont try to outact me boy…

    oh.. and of course vampires burn in sunlight – its got my vote, at least
    speaking of your votes, i caught Rocky for the first time in years last night – strange little movie but a great one, it deservedly topped your poll. even if Rocky IV has better music.

    • November 25, 2009 11:15 am

      Haha, didn’t think I was gonna get a whole lot of love from any Leo-haters out there.

      Awesome take on Wahlberg, too. I think you’re on to something. Fuckin’ Matt Damon…

      And, yeah, I need to revisit Rocky, too. Needed more Brigitte Nielsen if I remember correctly.

  2. November 25, 2009 4:03 pm

    I agree with your assessment with this movie. I didn’t see Infernal Affairs. This movie was a solid effort for Scorese. Should it win 4 Oscars, no.

    I enjoyed the banter between Wahlberg and Baldwin. Classic.

    The last fifteen was a huge WTF moment.

    What do you think of the texting in the pocket sequence? I hated it more than the last shot of the movie.

  3. November 25, 2009 6:42 pm

    Nicholson almost ruined the movie for me. Otherwise I agree with most of what you wrote. I thought Leonardo DiCaprio did a good job.

    Does your problem with the ending refer to the shoot ’em up or the “resolution” of the love triangle or both?

    • November 26, 2009 10:44 am

      Shoot ’em up. Thought the love triangle resolution was fine.

  4. Ryan permalink
    November 25, 2009 10:32 pm

    Really disagree with your review here. This movie was decent, but as a whole it was totally overrated. I thought Dicaprio tore it up in this movie. He by far had the hardest role to act on screen and make believable. I mean being an undercover cop for a mob would be so mentally draining and Leo really conveyed that on screen. Matt Damon however just had to play another sneaky, little piece of shit crooked cop from Boston…. wow, another douche from Boston… woopie.

    While I agree Baldwin and Marky Mark were the most entertaining characters in the movie and had some of the best lines in the movie, it really wasn’t much of a stretch for them, because I’m pretty sure that’s exactly how they act in real life.

    Scorsese is a legend, yada yada, but this movie did not deserve best picture. Best movies of 2006 were Blood Diamond (Leo was sweet in that too) and Apocalypto (I don’t care if Mel Gibson is a bigot, he makes good movies). Prestige and Borat were awesome too, although not really comparable, but still more watchable than The Departed.

  5. November 26, 2009 12:20 am

    The Departed holds a curious place on my ranking of Scorsese’s fictive films. On the one hand, it is one of his weakest pictures, narratively, falling into the trap of Gangs of New York, fracturing his deeply personal style of placing his camera directly into the protagonist’s POV by giving us several characters to follow (Gangs, however, handled this much better). On the other, it may be the most — to leap straight to vague qualifiers — “fun” movie ever. I also think that, while his direction suffers for not being able to unleash as it usually does, Scorsese does a superb job with a now-objective camera and his is one of the few “Sorry we didn’t get this to you sooner Oscars” to actually deserve it on the merits of the film that earned it.

    Basically, every time I watch it I see the flaws, and every time I stop caring about ten minutes in.

  6. November 26, 2009 1:41 am

    I’m not going to fight with you on this but I have seen the original Chinese film, and this is probably better than the remake itself, and this should have been given a higher rating, but not a 10/10 cause it did have flaws. But nice review anyway man!!! You brought up some good points that I didn’t notice before until you just mentioned them!!

  7. November 26, 2009 7:07 am

    great comment Jake Cole, one sentence im totally disagreeing with you, the next im on your side – a real rollercoaster! youre right about Depahted being a fun if flawed movie but im gonna call you on saying Gangs handled anything better – what a real mess of a movie, although apparently a lot of that was down to Miramax and not Scorsese

  8. November 26, 2009 11:03 am

    I think that, had Miramax not forced the unnecessary and CLEARLY tacked on loe story, Gangs would have been one of Scorsese’s better works. I think all of the stuff involving Amsterdam and Bill was interesting and a bit of a wry, quasi-sociopolitical take on the “typical” Scorsese movie involving street crime and gang wars. It suggests that crime is in New York’s blood, but that it isn’t necessarily a completely bleak picture because Scorsese’s protagonists always recognize this and try to break free from the cycle. That final shot, not only showing that the bitterest of enemies become equals in death but the time-lapsed evolution of the city around their bodies is probably the best ending in a Scorsese movie (never his strong point, if only because I never want his movies to end).

    But yes, even though I’m routinely charmed by Diaz (I really did enjoy her screen presence and charisma starting from her breakout in The Mask and following through to Vanilla Sky and this), I detest the romantic subplots and the film is just one more reason to hate the manipulative nature of Miramax/the Weinsteins.

  9. November 26, 2009 6:27 pm

    I totally agree with you that Letters from Iwo Jima got robbed. I still think The Departed was a good movie, an 8 or 8.5/10 in my book but Letters was a masterpiece while this was merely good

  10. November 27, 2009 11:10 am

    The Infernal Affairs trilogy is a must for anyone that remotely liked the Departed, seriously, 100%, rent it!!! My favourite thing about this movie was hearing everyone slip in and out of the accent, the foxy psychiatrist was by far the worst offender. That and Wahlberg’s rage!!!

  11. November 27, 2009 12:39 pm

    Good film, not a great one. What you may or may not know is that back in July the Oscars for the last ten years where officially (in my head) redistributed, this film lost out not to Letters From Iwo Jima but to Pan’s Labyrinth. You can see the results here:

  12. November 28, 2009 2:12 pm

    DiCaprio performed solidly in my opinion, but thats why we have blogs.

    The Departed is in my top 5 of the decade can’t say the same for Letters.

  13. Cornelius permalink
    February 23, 2010 8:56 pm

    I thought the movie was pretty bad, in general. Impeccably made, but bad. I mean, doesn’t Scorsese overdo it with the amount of people that get shot dead in this movie? (specially in the head), doesn’t he always overdoes it with the blood and violence?. In my opinion this makes the story less credible. I remember after watching Gangs of NY I wanted to throw up, such a disgustingly idiotic film it was, people just slaughtering each other throughout the entire bloody movie, how about some acting? an actual story?. In this one I think DiCaprio is the best of the lot by far, Sheen and Nicholson are fine and the rest are just a bunch of swearing, ball-grabbing machos trying to make us think they look like cops, I mean, hell, Wahlberg man!, he looks more like an overweight underage ballet dancer than a cop!. Another Scorsese genuine crap. I can’t wait to watch Shutter Island.

    • February 24, 2010 11:57 am

      Haha, please leave another comment like this one after you do.

      Yeah, Gangs of New York sucks and I might have given this one a higher rating than it deserved. The violence is a little much, or maybe it’s just the last fifteen minutes of violence that does it for me here. But that’s always been Scorsese, works sometimes and it doesn’t others. Worked in Taxi Driver, that’s the only one I can think of though.

      Thanks for commenting, man. Good stuff.

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