#55: The Departed [2006]


OK, let's start with the ridiculously impressive cast: Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio and Jack Nicholson are all on top form as the leading roles in Martin Scorsese's thriller The Departed. Throw in Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen and a Baldwin brother, and you know you're set for a good watch. (You might (not) have noticed the lack of female leads; I'll get onto that rant in a bit.)
Damon plays the smooth, sneaking Colin Sullivan, a rat placed in the Massachusetts State Police by Nicholson's chilling Frank Costello, Irish American mob boss. Meanwhile, Leonardo's wrong-side-of-the-tracks Billy Costigan, undercover cop, is sent to worm his way in Costello's crew. While these three are surrounded by other noteworthy performances, each actor captures the respective balance of tension, fear and violence bound up in their characters remarkably. It seems sadistic to say it, but it's a spectacle to watch their lives unravel.
Needless to say, this movie is all about doubles. Sullivan and Costigan lead double lives, while being reverse doubles of each other. The layers of duplicity mount up until all ideas of identity become so fragmented and confused that all loyalties and objectives are thrown out the window - it's each man for himself. To tiptoe towards the edge of modesty, I'm not the bluntest knife in the drawer, and yet I struggled to keep up with who was doing what and why (not to mention when and how). Inception? No problem. The characters are simple and everything is explained to the new girl for us. This film? Well there's no honour amongst thieves, and if you fall behind you're left behind. So pay attention. It really doesn't help all their names are so damn similar either (and that I was chatting throughout...)
This movie is pretty slick, at points fairly macho (even when Costigan is being all vulnerable) but yet again we get the frustratingly boring female fitty (Vera Farmiga) who sleeps with both main guys which apparently makes her character more 'complicated'. It doesn't. It makes her a tart. Which is a shame because she's a love interest who is actually smart for once. But, I'll forgive Scorsese this one, because: 1. the love triangle plays on the duplicity ideas (which are vital); and, 2. he's busy with other things, like his perpetual focus on father figures. This doesn't fully vindicate The Departed from being another overly masculinity-dependent thriller, but I'll let the issue lie.
I think I've mentioned this before, but I get really into the emotions of films (but not usually in the "correct" way). When it comes to thrillers I have the shake-measure. The degree to which I'm shaking is directly correlated to how tense the film is, and I couldn't sit properly towards the end.  That's review enough in itself really. 

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