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February 6, 2007 > The Departed-A Movie Review

The Departed-A Movie Review

By Jeremy Inman

It's almost Oscar time, and even though we didn't run a review when it first premiered, it's worth another look.

Few directors could take a tired old shtick like "undercover cop must find the rat" and make it as well as Scorsese did with The Departed.

It helps that the film (which can be legitimately called such, since it was shot on film, rather than digitally) has an overall old school feel to it - a grungy sort of grain or roughness. It more than matches the edgy performances of its lead actors, and lends itself to the multitude of gruff and villainous personalities laden throughout the script.

Speaking of the performances: what a cast! Usually, with so many big names in one movie, you'd expect the stars to stumble over one another or to blot out one another's shine. But Scorsese kept these seasoned performers in tow, careful to put only one or two of them in a scene together and to squeeze every last morsel of performance power out of them. Leonardo DiCaprio (now a long-time Scorsese collaborator) plays a cop posing as a robber while Matt Damon plays a robber posing as a cop. In one way or another, they both work for notorious criminal mastermind and root of all evil in Boston, Frank Costello (played to perfection, as expected, by Jack Nicholson) as well as a number of higher-ups in local law enforcement, played by Martin Sheen and Mark Wahlberg. Toss in the always good Alec Baldwin and you'll start to get a picture of the caliber of performance in Scorsese's latest picture.

However, it's the performances that make The Departed such a worthwhile film. The story, while by no means bad, isn't exactly original. Both men (Dicaprio and Damon) scramble to uncover the identity of the mole in their respective home organizations while slowly rising in their adoptive organizations. It's the pacing and the performances that'll keep (or by now, kept) viewers on the edge of their seats. It's got plenty of tense moments and suspense, but it never throws anything at you that you couldn't necessarily have expected from a movie of its nature.

Mr. Scorsese is a master of his art form, and aside from a few jarring cuts (which could possibly have been intentional) and some dropped sound which might have been a result of the theater at which the film was screened, The Departed is a magnificent display of old school filmmaking prowess.

Note: If you haven't seen the movie by now, you should do so before reading on, as the rest of this review pertains to some particular gripes I had about the end of the film.

Haven't we come to a point in filmmaking, especially in these crime ensemble pictures, where we can make a movie like this and come up with a clever ending? A little more than just having everybody die? I for one do not find that nearly as shocking as annoying that the screenwriter or the director or any of the numerous people with a say on how the film ends would simply cop out like that.

I wouldn't have minded so much except that the first shot in the massacre was fired by a guy whose only justification for being there was "you didn't think you were the only mole, did you?" and that's it; one line of a dialogue to introduce a profoundly important plot element at the very end of the film. Also, Vera Farmiga's character knew the entire truth from a much earlier point than the end of the film, and did nothing. She doesn't die with the rest of the lead characters, so why didn't she act on her knowledge? What happens to her, or her baby?

Those are called loose ends, and they leave a filmgoer very unsettled.

The ending is my only major gripe with The Departed. Scorsese is without a doubt one of the finest directors; practically every major performance in the film is worthy of an Oscar nomination, even if Wahlberg got the only nod. It'd be nice to see Mr. Scorsese go home with a Best Director Oscar this time around, but I almost wouldn't want to see him win for The Departed after he was passed by for Raging Bull and Goodfellas, not to mention a number of others ranging up to 2004s The Aviator. Still, he's an easy guy to root for and I think we'd all like to see him win. Everybody knows he's one of the true great directors even if the Academy refuses to admit it.

Rated R

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