Review by David Stratton
Set in South Boston, the Massachusetts State Police Department is waging an all-out war to take down the city's top organized crime ring...
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Ever since his childhood in South Boston, Colin Sullivan, (MATT DAMON) has been in debt to gang boss Frank Costello, (JACK NICHOLSON).
Sullivan is an admired member of the Massachusets State Police; his closest friends don’t realise that he’s in the pay of Costello. Meanwhile Billy Costigan, Leonardo Di Caprio, who has had a troubled childhood and is alone in the world, has enrolled in the police academy.
But he’s persuaded by Captain Queenan, Martin Sheen, and his deputy, Sergeant Dignam, (MARK WAHLBERG), to feign disgrace and endure a prison sentence in order to infiltrate Costello’s gang.
While Sullivan tips off Costello whenever the police are getting close, Costigan in turn tries to warn the police of Costello’s activities. Both men are looking for the traitor in their midst. And both men become involved with government psychiatrist Madolyn, (VERA FARMIGA).
In the past I’ve complained that Hollywood makes too many unimaginative re-makes of foreign language films, and then along comes THE DEPARTED, a re-make of the Hong Kong thriller, INFERNAL AFFAIRS, just to prove the exception to the rule.
Some of Martin Scorsese’s best films have been crime movies – MEAN STREETS, TAXI DRIVER, GOODFELLAS, CASINO – and he makes a triumphant return to the genre with this cleverly plotted film which racks up the suspense almost to breaking point.
If you want a good example of first-class filmmaking, THE DEPARTED would be hard to beat. It’s well written by William Monahan who, despite arguably an excess of 4-letter language, still comes up with mordantly funny lines; the cast is impeccable with Nicholson giving a powerhouse of a performance as the ruthless Costello.
Di Caprio, Damon and Wahlberg have rarely been better. It’s superbly shot by Michael Ballhaus and edited with pinpoint precision by Thelma Schoonmaker – despite its 2½ hour running time, it really zips along.
As cop thrillers go, this is the best in quite a while.
MARGARET: David, I'm such a naysayer on this one. I really didn't like it, and everything that you say about it I think absolutely the opposite. I think Nicholson's a caricature, I hated that performance.
I don't believe Di Caprio, such a nervous little Nellie in amongst this gang of crims. Wouldn't you suspect him first off? It's so unlikely, so unlikely.
It's so violent, it's so vile in the language, you know, particularly the sexual language.
DAVID: Now, come on, Margaret, you're hardly, you’re hardly going to see a Scorsese crime movie after GOODFELLAS and the other films and not expect...
MARGARET: I think GOODFELLAS leaves this for dead, absolutely for dead. For me, GOODFELLAS was sort of like way up there. This is way down.
DAVID: Hang on. You’re complaining about the violence but GOODFELLAS is an extremely violent and profane film as well.
MARGARET: But, I don’t know, this had no point to it. It is morally bankrupt, this film. It had nothing in it.
DAVID: Come on, Margaret.
MARGARET: I came out on the street and I really felt nauseous.
DAVID: Come on.
MARGARET: I did.
DAVID: Look, it's almost Shakespearian in its...
MARGARET: Oh, I could - there's a very good word I could say...
DAVID: Well, don’t.
MARGARET: ...but I'm not allowed to say it on television. That is ludicrous. No. It's not how beautiful it looks, it's what's in there, the substance, and this hasn't got any.
DAVID: On the contrary, I think it's one of Scorsese's best films.