Great film with a solid central conflict personified by the ever perfect Leonardo Di Caprio. However, the movie ends lacking any fulfillment, with deft voids of logic and senseless vulgarity driving this Scorsese flick to the edge and over.
Maybe it is just me, maybe I just can not understand these “gangster flicks” and their immense irrational stupidity and masochism. These characters seem irrevocably shallow, repetitive in their floundering for sex and power. Gangsters are idiots, and to be impressed by their mannerism is equivalent to entertaining yourself with an autistic person, it’s just not right. However I can understand that this piece, ‘The Departed’, by Scorsese is a very deep study of his past and his influences growing up around the mob and their conflicting Catholic sentiments of guilt and redemption.
The setting for this tale of conceit is Boston, Massachusetts, home to the unreasonably vulgar Irish populous. At its core ‘The Departed’ follows two young cadets in the Boston police academy, strikingly similar in some ways, as we watch them head off in completely opposing and soon to be conflicting directions. Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) is a bright and cockeyed young man raised in the mob, who sweet mouths and sharply makes his way straight up as a detective for the Massachusetts State Police. Billy Costigan (Leonardo Di Caprio) on the other hand, a starkly intelligent and emotional intellect who aces his way through the academy only to be thrown out by Capt. Queenan (Martin Sheen) & Sgt. Dignam (Mark Wahlberg).
So begins the premise around Frank Castello (Jack Nicholson), the most wanted criminal in the state of Massachusetts. Sullivan is almost a son to Frank Castello, as the opening ten minutes of the film show how he was nurtured and raised away from the Catholic church by Castello. In this vain, Castello has long wished that Sullivan go to Police Academy and eventually become an informant inside the State Police for him. On the other side of the road, Costigan is later called up by the State Police due to his family credibility in crime to be their informant inside Castello’s gang. So begins the State Police hunt to find Castello’s rat, while Castello begins his hunt to find the State Police’s rat. Que absurdly masochisitic bang, a superflous amount of testosterone and voracious amount of cursing and death and you have yourself a movie called ‘The Departed’.
For the record this was the second time I watched this film, I did not enjoy it the first time and hated its immaculately distasteful ending. I enjoyed it the second time however, but somehow, even though I knew exactly what the ending was, found myself hating it again.
I really do not see how Martin Scorsese won an Academy Award for directing this. I saw countless crude cutting and short cut shots, moments where two actors are across a kitchen from each other, and the next cut has them kissing on the counter. Cruel torture for people with short term memory lapses, this happens very often and is distracting. I find it aggravating because it was done on purpose, I am sure Scorsese is the man he is because he does not make mistakes. The soundtrack is entirely inconsistent, and makes the movie lost between style and substance. In its peak moments of drama, it is punctual and silent yet every now and then Scorsese felt the need to reverberate the soundtrack with heavy Boston rock akin to something you would hear in ‘The Boondock Saints’, also a film about the mobs and the Catholic angle in Boston. Where that movie soared in style and substance, ‘The Departed’ excels in only delivering depth without any style what so ever. This is the kind of thing that makes a movie unmemorable.
I want to complain about the acting, but these qualms have much more to do with the script. The vulgarity is considerably over acted, and excessively distributed. It is completely unnecessary and at times vastly distasteful. Most characters are so impersonal and arrogant. Every “man to man” conversation must endeavor to cover the inadequate size of one’s endowment, or profess the love making they both endured with each others’ mother the night before. I must admit, some of the lines were quite excellent but it was completely unnecessary to the level that Scorsese took the flagrant cursing. I lost count of how many times I saw useless “school-boy” fights preceded by the usual “your mother is this” and proceeded by “lets go to the basement so we can finish this” kind of talk. It is such pig-like and chauvinist behavior that many, many of the intellectually misinformed “men” of this world “loved” this movie for. Maybe that is the “style” portion of these gangster films I will never respect or bother to understand.
Among all this negativity, I must point out why I did enjoy this movie. The fine poise and delicacy of the conflict between Sullivan and Costigan was a joy to see. I do commend how well Scorsese handled these two characters, with various scenes showing excellent juxtaposition between their personas and situations. Brilliant work, also the almost demi love triangle that formed between these two and the Police Psychiatrist Madolyn Smith (Vera Farmiga – great actress) was the brilliant middle point at which these two guilt ridden individuals eventually collided.
I really do not know what to say about this movie, I enjoyed the great character arc that Di Caprio executed to perfection but the rest of the cast felt like they had walked in from a different a movie, a gangster movie. A glaring plot hole that I noticed right at the beginning of the film bothered me a few times, and then painfully so right at the end, which I will discuss after this review. Never mind, I am going to end this review because I feel like discussing the ending. It is no doubt a great movie, great entertainment and should definitely be seen. Personal issues aside, the story was brilliant even if I do not agree with the manner in which it was presented. Never was a big fan of Scorsese before this movie, and still not.
Before I begin on a tirade about the stupidity that was flowing out of the corner of the film, let me just state how brilliant it was to see Leonardo Di Caprio deliver an astounding performance. I feel confused by this film, I was engrossed by Di Caprio’s character, a man who was emotionally scarred growing up by a family in crime. He loses his father at a young age, and later his mother, citing her to be the last connection to his uncle who is seemingly a very well off and illegally-so man. As he breaks free, he dedicates himself to the Police, his plight so sincere that even when he is utterly derided and thrown out by Sgt. Bignam, he still comes back when they ask him to go undercover… to use the credibility his family has with the mob, and help the State Police bring down their most wanted criminal, Frank Castello. He agrees, even though it required that Costigan give up his identity and spend a year in jail, to give himself some street credence. Throughout the film we see this character suffer loss after loss, and in his rare moments of reflections, the thing he values the most are his childhood pictures, depicting a family that was once happy. It is just tantalizingly aggravating to see such crude men around him, and even more so when Costigan suffers his ultimate defeat.
Now I begin with the stupidity, and such an immensely glaring plot hole that I feel like shouting “homosexual” at it and beating it with the stick. At the beginning of the film, we see Colin Sullivan (Damon) as a boy without a father. Frank Castello (Nicholson) approaches him from there and then with nourishment and irrevocable support to take this young boy out of church and put him to good use. Since childhood Sullivan was raised by the most wanted criminal of the Massachusetts State Police. When Capt. Queenan and Sgt. Bignam interviewed Costigan (Di Caprio), they verbally lacerated his soul with countless insults and allegations regarding his past. Bignam pointed out word for word scenarios about his past and lambasted him out the office door. This establishes how well informed the State Police are, so what about Sullivan? How is that they knew everything about Costigan and absolutely nothing about Sullivan? How grew up in the same neighborhood as Castello, and was then hence forth raised out and out by Castello? The fact that the rest of the movie hinges on this enormous oversight is very distracting.
The ending is my largest detractor however, and I found it to be largely inconsequential and unnecessary. Before I wrote this review, I went around and asked numerous people around my office what they thought of ‘The Departed’ and its ending. Most replied positively saying it was a “great movie” or something to that effect. I responded by expressing my dislike towards the ending, to which the response was unanimously along the lines of: “Don’t really remember what happened? Don’t they all die?”. Not a single person remembered why.
The death of Costigan was ridiculous, caused by a character that was superceding everyone in the loop of rats, seemingly higher than any other rat we encountered in the film, somehow Castello’s key rat in the Police. Random and implausible, it served no purpose other than cheap dramatic effect. This character was one of Sullivan’s unit that he himself recruited, as they were friends in the academy. However moments after Sullivan’s friend saves his life by killing Costigan, he kills Sullivan’s second unit for no reason. He then explains to Sullivan that he is also in fact an informant working for Castello, Sullivan’s response? Shoot him in the head. I am baffled right now, even after seeing this scene twice, and thinking about it a day later. I just feel like blurting jibberish out of my mouth, such is the thought process these chain of events causes in me. There was no hint, no tangible evidence that a character like this even existed. This just completed the void of logic that began with the initial oversight and ignorance over Sullivan’s appointment as a detective and Costigan’s rejection. This film is far from Oscar material, its short cutting and lack of cohesion in plot is vindictive of its overall quality, but then again ‘No Country For Old Men’ also won, and that was about… nothing?