The Departed is a film boasting four great performances unsurprising for four exceptional actors given great script, great casting and the superb direction of Martin Scorsese. But then this is a story, although expressed throughout both television and cinema theater, of rogue federal agency methodology interfering with local investigation of organized crime, it has never been illustrated better. The personal stories involve their own enhancement to both message and real representation of technical methods employed in real organized crime task forcing by police. Just as they do the cost to human life of one agency working an unconscionable agenda in disregard to both jurisdiction of another and of actually furthering crime.
The intense gifts of Jack Nicholson’s acting forte are well utilized in the role of Costello, a crime boss who relishes his crimes on a scale of total abandon to concerns of human life and consequence to all those around him. Even for Nicholson, however, his delivery is magnificent, on the scale of a Greek tragedian. Leonardo DiCaprio becomes his role, one both complex and impacting, that of an insider mole recruited to infiltrate Costello’s syndicate to its heart. At the same time, Costello has tailored his own infiltrator among the police, ultimately even to the level of that operating DiCaprio’s character, Billy Costigan. Matt Damon is the dirty cop, Colin, whose quick rise to detective interestingly parallels inversely the devolution of Billy as he penetrates further and further into Costello’s organization. Which one will discover the other first?
In the best performance of his career, Mark Wahlberg gives the role of police special task force recruiter, Dignam, the depth and delivery it demands for credibility. As his superior’s (Martin Sheen’s performance as Queenan is only slightly less grand than those highlighted) handler of Costigan. The accomplished Alec Baldwin is the clueless Ellerby, Colin’s immediate superior.
Quite a cast, with many supporting roles held to equally close standards, typical in all Scorsese films.
As complex as this well written script is (by William Monahan) the movie is far from difficult to follow. Scene changes, dialog, camera work, all provide easy continuity and the craftsmanship achieved is grand. Even the singular role of a police psycho-therapist, Madolyn (beautifully performed by the lovely Vera Farmiga) has unifying elements with both plot, developing of central characters, and allows added depth to detail. Little frill.
This film is so well crafted that its action can continually seem surprising but afterwards has that feel of the inevitable only great script writing, extraordinarily interpreted by direction can afford.
Partial nudity, tasteful love scenes, excepting for the display of a penis in a jerk-joint movie den, presumably that of Mr. Nicholson. (Bet he loved the “exposure”.) Leave the kids at home.
A great movie, even if it makes you want to cover telephone poles with pictures of J. Edgar in a sun dress (he preferred yellow, and men without sweaty palms.)