A few years ago, I had seen Infernal Affairs on DVD – a Hong Kong film about an undercover cop who infiltrated a Triad at the same time as a Triad member infiltrating the police force. Now Martin Scorsese has remade the film as The Departed, and moved the location to South Boston. Jack Nicholson plays Frank Costello, the crime kingpin at the center of the story. A member of his crew, Collin Sullivan (Matt Damon), has just graduated from the State Police Academy, and is positioning himself on the organized crime unit, headed up by Captain Ellerby (Alec Baldwin). Meanwhile, Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) is sent undercover by Captain Oliver Queenan (Martin Sheen) and Dingham (Mark Wahlberg) with the directive of working his way into Costello’s crew. Obviously that can’t happen overnight, and after serving time in jail, Costigan starts making his presence known in the underworld until he gains Costello’s attention.
The cat-and-mouse game really starts to pick up speed when the State Police realize they have a mole in their department, and Costello smells a rat in his crew – and now it’s a race to see who can be outed first. A side subplot involving a love triangle with Sullivan, a therapist (Vera Farmiga) and Costigan adds to the complexity of the story. In The Departed, Scorsese is clearly back in his element, and he weaves the story in a fast-paced manner that keeps us interested and engaged.
The characters and actors are the highlights of the film, with Baldwin and Wahlberg’s performances notably sticking out. Their fast-talking banter is slick and enjoyable. It was funny to hear everyone try to do a Boston accent, and while Wahlberg and Damon had no trouble pulling it off, Nicholson’s was the most entertaining. The film seems to follow the Infernal Affairs script pretty heavily, and there were only a few things that worked better in the original film than in this remake. Aside from the guitar-based score by Howard Shore, the music is another character in the film, and Scorsese makes sure that we notice it – it’s way too loud at times!
The Departed is one of the best movies I’ve seen this year so far. It’s not perfect, but it’s certainly a major awards contender. If you get a chance to see it, I strongly recommend you do so.