Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Departed

Review by Michael Jaffe
I don’t ever really remember why I started loving movies. Maybe it was escapism, maybe it was because it was two hours where I was perfectly in my rights to yell at my mom for disturbing me. After seeing THE DEPARTED I realized that this was the movie I had kind of always wanted to see. It is like the first time I saw INFERNAL AFFAIRS (the film on which DEPARTED is based on) I just knew that if there was a single line between good and bad movies, this movie was on the good side. DEPARTED is on of the movies that while you watch it, you just know its good. Be it the music, the lighting, the brilliant dialogue or the great performances, everything in this movie pretty much clicked at such a high rate that, while a flawed movie, nothing about could be changed and actually improve on it. It is the best movie that could be made with this subject. Not that it was better that INFERNAL AFFAIRS, a brilliant movie in its own right, but the departed is a completely different beast that tackles completely different things with a totally more engaging, more vicious American edge to it. Scorsese puts the petal to the metal and doest let up for two and a half solid hours as the plot keeps getting thicker and thicker building to the final conclusion that had me nearly out of my seat with anticipation. To boot, this is all from someone who saw the original and pretty much knew what was going to happen in the end, but nevertheless, I was so sucked into the world of these characters that I didn’t care what the ending was.
The plot is fairly basic, with a mole in the police force (Damon) and a mole in the mob (DiCaprio) and eventually, through a deal gone bad, they become aware of each others existence and are assigned to smoke each other out. The tension builds up as the movie goes on as the two men both develop relationships with the same woman, a police psychiatrist, which shows both of their strengths and vulnerabilities. The writing by William Monaghan is truly funny, genuine dialogue that shows no awkwardness or falsity to it, simply flowing as a bunch of street thugs in south Boston would speak, with loads of vulgarities and such. Scorsese goes to the genre that he helped create and keeps the streets of Boston as mean as he ever made the streets of New York. He doesn’t do any overdone craziness that Tony Scott uses; Scorsese simply shows us exactly how a story unfolds with no frills or anything. Unlike his ambitious film GANGS OF NEW YORK, that also starred DiCaprio, here there is no extra fat, surprising for a film with a 150-minute runtime.
The acting here is so key to the movie, because if the actors don’t come across as hardened criminals or smooth talking cops, the great writing and directing would all be null and void, and for the most part the cast is outstanding. Alec Baldwin as policeman Ellerby is so funny that I grabbed the arm of a stranger next to me just to stop myself from flailing in my chair violently at his rants. Jack Nicholson is still at the top, and portrays the role of gang boss Frank Costello perfectly as a crazy, old dog starting to lose touch with the world around him. Ray Winstone and Mark Whalberg both play sidekicks, Winstone’s Mr. French to Costello and Whalberg’s Dignam to Police Chief Queenan, with so much character of their own that they probably could have entire movies shaped around just their characters cause they came across as characters with so much more to share and tell. The problem I had is with the leads. DiCaprio, as hard as he tries, never came across as “street” as he should’ve, but his character’s vulnerability, a trait he plays very well, comes across so often in the movie, that his “street” side’s weakness could easily be forgiven. Damon also is mostly good, but has moments where I wanted to slap his goofy Irish mug off of the screen because he came across so ridiculously phony and cold.
THE DEPRARTED shouldn’t be compared to any other film out there because it is so different. Not quite a New York gangster film, not quite a slick Hong Kong action film, THE DEPARTED is simply a new breed of gangster movie that can only be described as one of the more inspired works to come out of Hollywood in a long time.

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