Review: The Departed


The Departed is a 2006 film about Irish gangsters in Boston, MA, and the police who pursue them.

Kast & Kru

  • Directed by Martin Scorsese
  • Written by William Monahan, Felix Chong & Siu Fai Mak (story)
  • Featuring Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Vera Farmiga, Martin Sheen, Mark Wahlberg, Anthony Anderson, Alec Baldwin, Ray Winstone


Frank Costello (Nicholson) is an Irish mob boss in Boston, Massachusetts. Back in the 1970s, Goodfellas-style, he took a neighbourhood kid, Colin Sullivan, under his wing, giving him cash money in exchange for little jobs.

Under Costello’s patronage, Sullivan studies hard and grows up to become Matt Damon (hey, he was lucky, his twin sister became Ben Affleck). Sullivan joins the filth, and is soon recognised to be a high flyer in the Massachusetts State Police. He is assigned to the Undercover Division – in fact *GASP!* to the very same unit tasked with bringing down Frank Costello!!! Whouldathunkit!!!

So, right, first ball in play: Bad guy has man on inside of good guy’s team. Father figure stuff. Irish stereotypes.

Meanwhile… One of Sullivan class mates at the University of Verbals & Falling Down Stairs was one Billy Costigan (DiCaprio). And guess what? Captain Queenan (Sheen, the chief of the Special Investigation Unit – the unit-within-a-unit most interested in taking down Costello – has recruited Costigan to pretend to drop out of pig school, get sent to prison, and then infiltrate Costello’s gang!!! Wow! What a twist!!!

Recap: Good guy has man on inside of bad guy’s team. Father figure stuff. Irish stereotypes.

Anyhow, Colin’s hunting down the mole inside Costello’s crew, whilst Billy’s trying to live as a hoodlum whilst reporting back to Queenan and his subordinate, the mouthy Staff Sergeant Dignam (Wahlberg) and, quite frankly, losing it. Oh, and for some plot point or other, Colin has to see a police shrink, Madolyn Maddigan (Farmiga), who – obviously – has just started a relationship with Sullivan.

Yadda yadda yadda, Nicholson hams around like bacon-flavoured heffalump (nice hat, mind), Sheen does his I’m-squinting-I-must-be-serious schtick, Wahlberg monotones his lines, DiCaprio and Damon ‘play cat and mouse’ etc. Not much for the ladies to do, I’m afraid, except sorta make up the numbers for the SAG quota. Farmiga’s good in it, just not really given anything to do except get walked over. Did I mention that Ray Winstone is in this? As an Irish-American pyromaniac gangster no less!

Oh yeah, back to the plot – Colin and Billy dance the dance around each other for a bit, getting closer and closer to figuring out the respective moles, but then Queenan is killed, one of Costello’s senior boys is shot dead, Billy goes more off the rails, Dignam gets suspended, Colin gets promoted, Madolyn is up the duff, there’s a showdown on a rooftop, lotsa shooting, a funeral, and a bit of a surprise ending. Ish.

It’s kinda based on the Hong Kong action flick Infernal Affairs.

BristleKRS’s review

It’s a peculiar film in its structure and in the way it unfolds; to me it feels like a two and a half hour trailer, with the same sort of distance between the audience and the material, like watching a film through a narc haze or something. That’s not to say it’s not thoroughly professionally executed – the performances are pretty much uniformly good, and believable within the parameters of the piece – but it’s a film at a remove. However much I concentrate on watching it, it feels like its holding me at arms length. Perhaps in large part this is to do with the editing, which teases, suggesting the promise of longer scenes but then cutting to the next (a by product of the large amount of material we have to get through, I guess), but, fuck it, who knows.

But you know when you’re watching the second or fifth or whatever part of a mini-series? And the first half an hour is just endless catching up on what’s already happened? Everything edited together, all plot points and action and the odd line, but rattling through it, no time for characterisation except the odd caustic line or whatnot? Well, The Departed is that for two and a half fucking hours.

Yet despite the moaning, there’s some decent stuff in there, and the final half hour rattles along nicely, if only Scorcese coulda done that the whole flick through. Can’t really fault the main performances, just there’s not a lot for them to do some of the time. And there’s just too many decent actors relegated to mid-ground mugging (like Alec Baldwin).

Fuck it, it scooped Oscars & shit, so what does Scorsese care?

Bristle’s Reviews on WikiDot


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