Movie review: The Departed
Whew, what a movie! Even for a crime thriller, the pace of this movie leaves you breathless. Simultaneous action. Three major characters – Billy Costigan, the undercover cop (Leonardo DiCaprio), Colin Sullivan, the gangster’s mole in the police force (Matt Damon) and the dreaded, blood-thirsty gangster Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson) – all thrown in your face at once.
Directed by the celebrated Martin Scorsese, The Departed is apparently a remake of a 2002 Hong Kong crime thriller. Expectedly, in keeping with the director’s penchant for making violent movies, this one is packed to the hilt with not only gory, bloody scenes, but so much profanity (even a Hindi gaali!) that after an hour or so of this one just stops getting shocked. And we in India are supposedly lucky. There’s evidence of the censor’s scissor, specially where the sex scenes are concerned. Is that why the movie seems to just tear ahead at an almost unbearable clip?
The story itself is fascinating. Colin, a brilliant and ambitious youngster with childhood links to the dreaded gangster Costello, gets into the police force and becomes their blue-eyed boy. On the other side there is Billy, a vulnerable middle-class kid (whose uncle was a hood) who is average in studies and who flunks the police academy. He’s down, but not out. He’s offered a dangerous undercover assignment – to worm himself into the confidence of the gangster Costello. Billy does it with panache, playing the role of a violent, disgruntled kid who has nothing to lose. With growing excitement, the viewer realises that Colin and Billy are set to clash – why, they even like the same woman – a police psychiatrist, Madelyn (Vera Farminga)!
Suspense keeps you on the edge of your seat. Each twist and turn in the story makes you wonder: Will the ruthless Colin get exposed as the gangster’s mole? Or will the sweet Billy be murdered by the crazy Costello if he finds out that he is a cop? It’s just lucky for Billy that Queenan (Martin Sheen) and Dignam ( Mark Wahlberg) try hard to keep the identity of their spy close to their chests. As for Costello, as the movie progresses, he is seen to be losing his mental balance. A man who had always thought nothing of killing, he actually starts to enjoy it…and it sends a chill down our Billy’s spine.
The second half has Colin trying desperately to please his childhood mentor Costello by attempting to find the identity of the undercover cop. Billy is even more desperate to find who Costello’s mole in the police force is – because he knows that he has to expose the mole – if he himself has to stay safe.
All the actors did good. Matt Damon was convincing as the desperately ambitious guy who wants to keep it all – the promotions as well as his precarious father-son relationship with Costello. DiCaprio, who plays a character who has an intriguing mix of sensitiveness, decrepitude, and a desire to better himself, did amazingly well. As for Jack Nicholson, well, he was predictable…typically Jack Nicholson. Slow-talking and theatrical (remember Batman?). Vera, who plays a mental health professional torn between two men, acted very well.
In this movie some well-known actors have been taken for minor roles. However, the roles are very distinct. Sheen for example has a lot of screen time, and plays a kind, fatherly, but very savvy cop. However, it’s his second-in-command Wahlberg, who plays a foul mouthed and even cruel character, who leaves the strong impression.
This movie has surprises in store at every turn, and certainly some at the end. If one has to sum it up – it’s fast, it’s slick (and sick!) and it’s scary. It may not be a crime classic, but it’s certainly one of the best crime movies I have ever seen. Not a movie to miss, but if you are faint-hearted, well…forget it.