Thursday Night Movie Club
The Departed
star rating graphicstar rating graphicstar rating graphic½
Release Date: October 6, 2006

Director: Martin Scorsese
Leonardo DiCaprio
Matt Damon
Jack Nicholson
Mark Wahlberg
Martin Sheen
Ray Winstone
Vera Farmiga
Anthony Anderson
Alec Baldwin
Kevin Corrigan
James Badge Dale
David O'Hara
) Mark Rolston
Robert Wahlberg
Kristen Dalton
Billy Costigan
Colin Sullivan
Frank Costello
Oliver Queenan
Mr. French
Cousin Sean
The Departed movie poster
Leonardo DiCaprio, Ray Winstone and Jack Nicholson in The Departed.The Departed is a wonderfully suspenseful, intriguing and violent movie. Martin Scorsese fires on all cylinders. He doesn't resort to fancy camera angles to achieve an on the edge-of-your-seat thriller. Scorsese lets the acting by the tour-de-force cast lead the way.

Frank Costello (Nicholson) is the local crime boss in Boston. He is very shrew ed and very smart. Because of this, he has gained a lot of friends and a lot of enemies. The police force of Boston tries to infiltrate his operation. To counter that, Costello infiltrates the police force. It is the old "Spy vs. Spy" and the game is afoot!

Into the mix comes two police recruits. One, Costigan (DiCaprio) is a loser from the dark side of the tracks, the other, Sullivan (Damon) has done very well in school, a straight arrow. Both are given the opportunity to show their true colors, spying on the enemy.

But the game doesn't end there. As the game unfolds, the question always lingering just on the tip of your fingers is: How many people have infiltrated the enemy and who are they? If you want to throw the dice, another question is: Who is the enemy? But the intrigue doesn't end so simply. The Boston police force is obviously after Costello. But, the FBI working with the Massachusetts State Police is also involved. Neither agency trusts the other. On top of that, which agency or is it both that has been infiltrated?

Photo of the F.B.I. task force headed by Alec BaldwinQuestions... questions...!

Do the questions get answered? You must be joking. There are more red herrings and McGuffins in this movie to sink a battleship! Is that a bad thing? NO! Forget the main story. Does it make perfect sense in the end? I have no idea. Is it important? No! Just sit back and enjoy a masterful director take you on a wonderful journey of suspense, tension and intrigue.

The Departed is a chess game. it's a poker game. it is deception. It is a game of "spot the rat". And it is a whole lot more!

The joy of watching Martin Scorsese at work is that you don't see his presence. He doesn't use fancy camera angles. His shots are all straight forward. His genius is in the camera placement, sound effects, how the actors move within the frame, things happening off screen that the actors respond to, and, how the actors move in and out of a shot. The effect is subtle and powerful and masterful.

Photo of Mark Wahlberg and Matt DamonScorsese doesn't use the camera to tell the story. He positions it so that the actors have space to reach into the characters and bring enhance the conflicts.

DiCaprio rises to new levels. Costigan is the main focus of the movie and DiCaprio takes the role and runs with it, exuding the pent up emotions of a man who knows he is being set up for a bullet to the brain, but continues to fight on. Costigan is conflicted. He comes from a bad family, but he joins the police force. Why? Who knows. The answer is never given. A bad apple that falls far from the tree? In this case, it falls towards the righteous. But why? Another level of subtle intrigue this movie does time and time again.

Nicholson is great, but it is the same old Jack. Damon can't act his way into a paper bag but it works for the squeaky-clean Sullivan. Baldwin and Sheen are excellent, with Baldwin getting the most jokes in. But Mark Wahlberg, in a limited roll, really shines. Wahlberg is so good that from his opening scene, we are captivated by his presence. He and Sheen play the perfect "good cop, bad cop". As the movie plays out, who really is good and who is bad. ("Good, Bad. I'm the one with the gun.") Between DiCaprio and Wahlberg, they take over every scene they are in.

Nicholson is due his respect. He is wonderful. However, we have seen Jack perform this roll time and time again. He is good, but it isn't a stretch for him. It is merely Jack being Jack. We've seen this before. Then again, who else could pull off this roll, Tom Cruise, George Clooney?

Forget about the plot. Don't worry if it makes sense at the end. It's immaterial. The characters and the portrayals are too good. The writing, subtle direction and camera work, editing, and sound effects will keep you intrigued long after the movie ends.

Questions... questions! Sit back and enjoy!