***** (out of 5)
October 6, 2006
Leonardo DiCaprio as BILLY COSTIGAN
Matt Damon as COLIN SULLIVAN
Jack Nicholson as FRANK COSTELLO
Mark Wahlberg as DIGNAM
Martin Sheen as OLIVER QUEENAN
Alec Baldwin as ELLERBY
Vera Farmiga as MADOLYN
Studio: Warner Bros.
Directed by: Martin Scorsese
BY KEVIN CARR
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I have to admit that I had been getting a little worried about movies this year. In general, they’ve been pretty good – much better than at least the first half of 2005. However, even though there were some good movies and some great movies, there were very few incredible movies.
“The Departed” changed all that. It was only the second film I’ve seen in the theater this year that I consider to be perfect. (The first one, incidentally, was “United 93.”) That was a great relief for me, not just for the state of film for 2006, but also for my opinion of Martin Scorsese.
I’ve enjoyed most of Scorsese’s films, going all the way back to “Taxi Driver.” However, in the past few years, he seemed to have lost some edge. His last stab at the Oscar category was “The Aviator,” which I thought was okay but far from a masterpiece.
With “The Departed,” Scorsese has redeemed himself from any wrong he’s done lately – and that includes giving us films like “Bringing Out the Dead.” It takes a special movie to knock me off my feet and leave me speechless (as well as leaving me desperately grasping for cliches to find words for my praise). With the possible exception of “Goodfellas,” “The Departed” is easily one of Scorsese’s best movies yet.
The film, which is based on a Hong Kong gangster movie, tells the story of Irish cops in Boston. One of them, Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio), doesn’t have a strong enough record to be a detective, so he takes a deep cover assignment to bust mob boss Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson). Another Irish cop named Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) is the star of the precinct, but he’s also secretly in cahoots with Costello.
The film unravels a complicated woven plot of two conflicting cops doing their jobs, which we all know will eventually come to a head. The tables are turned from what we normally see – rooting for the gang member and rooting against the detective.
Sometimes an artist makes his best work by going back to the old stand-bys. That’s exactly what Martin Scorsese has done with his latest masterpiece, “The Departed.” He uses some of the same tricks we’ve seen before in his crime dramas, but he throws in some new techniques in terms of pacing and music cues that I’ve never seen before.
Scorsese has assembled a top-notch cast, which also includes Alec Baldwin, Martin Sheen and Mark Wahlburg. Watch these names at Oscar time as you can expect award nods to go to Baldwin, DiCaprio and Scorsese himself. This might actually be the movie that could give old Marty his long-coveted gold statuette.
It’s rare that I call a movie a masterpiece, but that’s exactly what “The Departed” is. It’s possibly the best paced film I’ve ever seen. The story moves along at a frenetic pace with fast cutting that has a unique style much more refined than the crap you seen thrown in music videos and supposedly hip movies that they try to save with editing. And just when the movie slows down to a slow scene, it yanks you back on your feet running again. The running time is close to two and a half hours, but it flies.
As I mentioned before, this film ranks up there with “Goodfellas,” and that’s not just in quality and style. It’s also one of the bloodiest, most violent flicks Scorsese has turned out. While the violence is not pervasive, it jumps out at shocking moments with the effectiveness of the body-in-the-trunk scene in “Goodfellas.”
However, “The Departed” is entirely its own movie. Scorsese differentiates it from everything else he’s ever done. The guy might as well retire now because I don’t see how he’s going to top this one.