Director: Martin Scorsese
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio
An All Star Cast, And A Fantastic Story – Perfect……?
‘Billy Costigan’ is a cop who goes deep undercover as a mole within a pack of gangsters. Similarly, ‘Colin Sullivan’ is under the gangsters’ payroll to rat out the cop’s next move towards arresting them…Only ‘Sullivan’ works as a police sergeant.
It’s not long before trouble is stirred on both sides, and a race is on for both sides to unearth their mole first.
With a fairly gripping premise, this makes for anticipatory enthrallment; and with the legendary Scorsese at the helm as director, it is only natural to expect great things. On top of this, the film has won 4 Oscars, some of which are; “Best Motion Picture of The Year” 2007 going to producer Graham King, and Scorsese also received his only ever Oscar for this film for “Best Achievement in Directing”. Though there has been some debate as to whether this film deserved it, or whether he should have received it for his earlier (and some say, better,) films.
As well as this there is an all star leading cast consisting of Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Alec Baldwin and Ray Winstone. With such an expensive and mostly talented cast, it is only natural to expect a great film with fantastic depth.
The all star cast is, in fact, distracting during the opening sequence. While the beginning had some great dialogue and fantastic shots, the amount of cast members introduced in the setup take you out of the story from the off. Each time a new famous actor comes onto screen, the mind wanders off into the realms of “Oh that’s Alec Baldwin!” or maybe even “Now where have I seen him before?” This makes it tricky to take in the story in the introduction and engage your mindset into the films situation.
However, you naturally get used to it, but by this time it is possible that it could become taxing to comprehend certain early character actions or reactions, as well as parts of the story. Thankfully (mostly due to the films length), it is easy to connect yourself back into the story and identify with certain characters.
While it is nice to see an all star cast in some films, this isn’t the case in a film with such a convoluted plot as ‘The Departed’. There are many character nuances and actions which are crucial, and really need to be identified clearly. This is not the case with all, however, some felt like they could have been a lot deeper.
In spite of this, there are certain characters that are very well established, as are their connections with others. If able to disregard the initial overload of acclaimed cast, the opening becomes a very interesting setup, and a great introduction to some roles.
Mark Wahlberg, plays a stereotypical renegade ‘asshole’ cop by the name of ‘Dignam’. For this, he was nominated for an Oscar in the category of “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role”. Thankfully he did not receive the award. Whilst Wahlberg is not a bad actor in general, he definitely did not match up to other cast members within this film. His performance was inconsistent, albeit acceptable, but there were numerous instances of dodgy line delivery; mostly down to his undeveloped accent.
However, within the celebrity cast there were some great performances. The best, in my humble opinion, is the performance of Leonardo DiCaprio who plays ‘Billy Costigan’. This is one of his early roles within adulthood, and he gives a superbly convincing performance. As many will probably agree, in his younger years he seemed like a talentless young boy who just had a pretty face, for this reason many people had a great dislike towards him for the amount of mainstream work he got based possibly on his looks. I will admit; that I used to be one these people who didn’t pay any specific attention to his ability to act in his early career. Often when attention was paid, there didn’t seem to be anything special about him. ‘Blood Diamond’ was the first film I saw him in, in which he behaved as an actual actor; I gave him a chance, and was shocked at what he has become. After seeing ‘The Departed’, there is a whole new level of respect for DiCaprio; he is not just a pretty face, he does have fantastic talent.
DiCaprio gives a stellar performance in this film, and it is easy to get really involved in his character, who is in a worse situation than to his counterpart ‘Sullivan’ (Matt Damon). Resultantly, it becomes somewhat effortless to develop a sense of fear for him.
A connection along similar lines is also attempted to be established with Damon’s character, although trying to insinuate different emotions. Unfortunately this connection is lost due to Damon’s sub-par performance. Whilst (like Wahlberg) he is generically not a terrible actor, his performance just feels too familiar in this film, much like his character in ‘Good Will Hunting’ just with a different accent, which is fairly disappointing. Despite this, his role is a strong solid one and is well established, it’s just that it’s a little hard to care about him sometimes down to his performance.
Nicholson also gives a superb performance, somewhat reminiscent of his portrayal of ‘The Joker’ in Burton’s ‘Batman’, yet giving his character his own unique spin. This works well, and Nicholson gives a brilliantly convincing performance to a great character.
The whole theme of the film has a very evocative aura around it, very implicative of the old epic gangster films such as ‘The Godfather’, or perhaps one of Scorsese’s previous gems ‘Goodfellas’. This film seems to take movies such as that, but bring it into the modern day, and make it contemporary. Although the story in ‘The Departed’ is a bit deeper, and more convoluted than the aforementioned examples, it separates itself from being directly affiliated with such films. In this sense it is cleverly written.
The scriptwork is fantastic, the story flows really well. While it takes a while to get used to the shifting of storylines, the film does become pretty absorbing, captivating and genuinely intriguing in its nature, mostly down to its brilliant cinematography and excellent use of camera angles. Added to this, there are some fantastic lines of dialogue; in particular the opening line delivered by Nicholson’s character; “I don’t want to be a product of my environment. I want my environment to be a product of me.” As well as this, there are some funny lines of dialogue, which initially make the film seem quite humorous. The film starts with some very comedic undertones, which make any and all initial scenes of violence seem a little black, but can also turn into something a little more impacting when the realisation hits that it’s not supposed to be funny. While this is a nice aspect, it seems to dwindle as the film goes on. It would have been nice to keep this undertone, as it added a unique punch to the scenes displaying violence.
Although, despite some great performances, a great story and a well developed script; the film doesn’t cumulatively feel as if there is that much to it. There is a main story, and a severely underplayed and vaguely interesting sub-plot which seems a little disparate from the main plot. This can make a few scenes less enthralling, but not really that tedious. Certain scenes just feel less important to character and plot development. Additionally, there is only the one sub-plot; for such a long film it would have been nice to have a lot more to the story than just the enticingly convoluted, yet empirical, ‘good cop/bad cop’ structure.
Overall, this is a rather prepossessing film which happily and easily keeps you watching throughout, as well as sustaining interest in the story. However, it doesn’t really feel that unique. By the end, there is something about it which just feels a little too familiar, and this is possibly down to its recollective aspects. Despite this, there are some pleasing performances, and the cinematography is very visually gratifying. This film also engages the mind in terms of following the story, and makes for a very interesting watch.
With some fantastic aspects as mentioned before, this film is 7 out of 10. When its elements are good, they’re brilliant; but when they are bad, they are just sorely disappointing and detract from the films mood. But it’s definitely worth watching, and is fantastically entertaining.