Plot – An undercover cop and a mole in the police attempt to identify each other while infiltrating an Irish gang in South Boston – The Departed
Director – Martin Scorsese
Released – 2006
It took a while but Scorsese finally got his Best Director Oscar in 2007 for The Departed and although I wouldn’t say this is his best film; it felt like a wrong had finally been righted by his Hollywood remake of Hong Kong crime thriller Internal Affairs set in the murky world of the Irish mafia and corruption in the Boston police force, this frantic and layered cat-and-mouse story takes the time to embed you with sides of the law shown through the eyes of police mole (Di Caprio) and gang mole (Damon), with Sheen, Wahlberg and Alec Baldwin each involved in either attempting to take down the crime kingpin (Nicholson).
For anyone that’s seen the original film that Scorsese adapted, this might feel a little predictable in places, but when you have a director of the calibre of Scorsese at the helm, it avoids the pitfalls that have befallen most Hollywood remakes (The Grudge, The Ring, The Wickerman, Pulse to name but a few) by the twin virtues of starring a hugely talented cast and unlike the slick original film, this one is gritty to the core.
Missing is the romance of the criminal lifestyle as seen in Goodfellas, Casino and The Irishman, replaced by the bleak and unwelcoming landscape of a criminal lifestyle fighting for its life. No longer do the criminal spend their times hanging around nightclubs and occasions, but dingy bars and rundown warehouses filled with rats and decay, showing you a more realistic and hard-hitting look into modern organised criminality.
Compounded by an excess of gruesome violence that unlike in The Godfather where only those you deserved it was hurt and violence was seen as a last resort, here the film goes to great lengths to forcefully open your eyes to the ugly side of life on the wrong side of the law.
As mentioned earlier, Scorsese has assembled a top-notch cast dripping with talent in even the smallest of roles. Long gone are the days when Di Caprio was just another Hollywood heartthrob seen in Titanic and The Beach, now unquestionably a man on a mission to prove his acting chops and the perfect successor to De Niro’s place as Scorsese’s first choice leading man and more than holding his own again the equally impressive Damon, who easily manages to portray the world of moral dilemmas felt by Detective Sullivan.
Their characters may be polar opposites, but both leading men couldn’t be separated in terms of high-quality acting. But these two aren’t the only ones in need of praise for their performances, with Nicholson putting in one another in a long line of fine acting jobs as mafia kingpin Frank Costello, who seemingly moves from one dirty situation to another complete with his trademark wicked grin and dark sense of humour.
Martin Sheen, Alec Baldwin also show up with strong and memorable turns, while the strongest of the supporting roles has to go to Wahlberg as Captain Dignam, one of the best hard-ass police officers you’re likely to see off for a long time. He was clearly having fun in the role and provided some film’s best lines.
All in all, I’m not surprised this film won Best Picture, beating the likes of Babel and Little Miss Sunshine for the top prize, after all, the Academy loves a crime thriller, but that doesn’t mean that this isn’t a deserving winner, excelling in almost every aspect of storytelling, filled with twists, turns, perfect acting and skilled direction from a true great.