87 of 97 people found the following review helpful
It's a tricky business adapting a foreign movie for an American audience. Martin Scorsese's "The Departed" captures all the best elements of the original film "Infernal Affairs" and works traditional Scorsese themes and material into the film making it very much his own and every bit the equal to the Chinese film. Featuring outstanding performances all around perhaps this film will finally earn Scorsese the Oscar for Best Director that he deserved for "Raging Bull" over twenty years ago.
Two state trooper academy graduates one an undercover officer named Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) and a mole in the department Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) working for crime lord Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson)have opposite goals. Captain Queenan (Martin Sheen) and Sgt. Dignam (Mark Wahlberg) charge Costigan with gathering as much dirt as possible on Sullivan so they can finally take him out. They work up a false history for Costigan which includes a brief stint in prison to create credibility. By comparison Sullivan is a boy scout who rises to the top of his department rapidly working for Ellerby (Alec Baldwin)in a rival department. Both are charged with ferriting out the mole in their respective organizations and both are romancing the same woman (Vera Farmiga) without ever meeting.
It's a brilliantly constructed game of cat and mouse with each playing the respective role at one point in time. Filled with brilliant visuals that echo the themes of the script adapted by William Monahan ("Kingdom of Heaven")from the script by Siu Fai Mak and Felix Chong the film manages to stay true to the elements that worked best in the Chinese film while incorporating elements unique to "The Departed". DiCaprio and Damon give complex, compelling performances as opposite sides of the same coin. Nicholson plays Costello with psychopathic intensity at times without going too far over the top. The entire cast gives stellar performances but I'd like to note tree actors in particularly who do the most with their limited roles--Alec Baldwin, Martin Sheen (who replaced two other actors that had to drop out--Robert DeNiro and Gerard McSorley)and Mark Whalberg all three give intense performances and inhabit their characters fully. Vera Farmiga handles her role of Madolyn equalling the big boys despite the fact that her character isn't given as much screen time by comparison. Special note should also be made of actor Ray Winstone ("The Proposition", "King Arthur" and "Cold Mountain") who gives a nice edgy performance as Mr. French.
The film runs 2 hours and 22 minutes. Scorsese uses every minute to allow the actors to build their characters or for brilliant set pieces. The film does sag a bit towards the middle but that's partially due to its complex set up for the story during the first twenty minutes of the film.
58 of 65 people found the following review helpful
on February 18, 2007
I read some of the other reviews, and I'm frustrated that so many people are finding a problem with Martin Scorcese's sensibilities in adapting a Hong Kong -set thriller to an American venue, using his legendary experience to create a very American "original". I was immensely entertained, baffled at all the intended times, intrigued at the appropriate times, and thoroughly blown away with the remarkable ending. Others have blabbed away plot-points, and I'm glad I didn't read those reviews before I saw the film. There's no doubt that Scorcese is deserving of Oscar recognition, and trying to make comparisons to his other films doesn't fly with me. This was a brutal display of some very mean people, but not as gory as "Goodfellas", not as character driven as "Raging Bull" and not as gritty as "Taxi Driver". It WAS, however, a terrific plot-driven narrative, and Mr. Scorcese should be applauded for taking this very complicated story, where each character is constantly affecting the others, and making it coherent. Nicholson was, indeed, playing a familiar version of Nicholson, so it was a natural choice in casting but no stretch for the great Jack. The 2-disc DVD is fine, with ample interviews with Mr. Scorcese, and other interesting stuff, especially about Bulgar, the guy after which Nicholson's character was based. Very glad I made the investment. BTW: The sextet from "Lucia di Lammermoor" is by Donizetti, not Puccini. UPDATE: 2-26-07: I'm glad it won the Oscar.
35 of 42 people found the following review helpful
on December 17, 2006
At long last a great movie by Scorese again. After a disappointing Aviator and an impressive but somehow soulless Gangs of New York, this one is entirely satisfactory.
A highly suspenseful cops and gangsters story with the main driver provided by the mutual spy set-up, i.e. both sides having their undercover agents in the opposite camp.
Leo D. and Matt Damon are perfect in their parts as "rats". Of course they represent different species of the rodent. Leo is the good rat, who hides among the baddies and has to pretend to be one of them. You suffer with him and are near a nervous breakdown, just as he. Damon is the smooth and admirable bad rat who seems to his environment like a good solid bloke, but the viewer knows better. Well, also Wahlberg's character does not like him, but he likes no one. This is the Hitchcockian technique of letting the audience know more, which increases suspense dramatically. Imagine the same story, but you don't know who is the bad rat. That would be much less interesting.
Nicholson as the evil gangster boss is possibly slightly overdone, but very well so. A good cast in the cop team includes Martin Sheen, Alec Baldwin and Mark Wahlberg, the latter being mainly remarkable for his foul mouth and his crucial role in the story's conclusion.
The movie is a remake of an excellent Hongkong movie of a few years ago. Scorsese's version is quite different, but neither better nor worse. Most Hongkong reviewers seem to have decided not to like the new version. Up to them.
31 of 38 people found the following review helpful
on October 11, 2006
I just saw Martin Scorsese's new film, The Departed, last night and I have to say - it was excellent! Scorsese is back in top form here, revisiting the mobster genre that he has been known for over the years. I would rank this one up with his classic film - and one of my personal favorites - Goodfellas. It's nice to see Marty swing back to his gritty, ultra-violent self!
First of all, the acting, directing, and just about everything else was state of the art. Jack Nicholson was perfect as Frank Costello, a mob boss who is in charge of the organized crime ring in Boston. Leonardo DiCaprio plays Billy Costigan, an undercover cop who sneaks his way into Costello's gang so he can be an informant for the police department. Meanwhile, Matt Damon plays Colin Sullivan, an informant for Costello's mob who works for the police department, and is on his way to be promoted in the Special Investigations Unit. Both men cross paths, and fall in love with the same woman - a psychologist played by Vera Farmiga from the little-known indie Running Scared. Each man starts to become consumed by their work, and when they are both in danger of being found out, only then do tensions rise, and things get a little out of hand. The performances from the leads are all Oscar-worthy. I never thought that I'd ever say that about Matt Damon. Well, let me back that up. He was quite good in Good Will Hunting and he was great in The Talented Mr. Ripley, and his performance here is no exception. Leonardo DiCaprio gives his best performance here since What's Eating Gilbert Grape. DiCaprio is becoming a fixture in Scorsese's recent films, almost as if he is the director's newfound muse amongst male actors, the last one being Robert DeNiro. This is Jack Nicholson's first film with Scorsese, which is hard to believe, but it is true. Jack is back to what he does best in this role, and, pardon the cliche, but it fits him like a glove. His performance is one of ferocious intensity, and everytime he's on the screen, you feel really uneasy...and that's not a bad thing! The direction is flawless. I've already said enough about Scorsese, but the man knows how to make a great film! I must also give credit to the editor, Thelma Schoonmaker, who worked on Goodfellas. Her editing makes the film seem fast paced and hyperactive, and for a film that is thirty minutes short of being three hours long, that's amazing!
However, if you are easily offended by profanity or graphic violence, then stay far away! They are both here, and in abundance.
166 of 224 people found the following review helpful
on October 18, 2006
After getting some uncalled for flack recently for his films "Gangs of New York" and "The Aviator" director Martin Scorsese returns to those gritty mean streets he seems to know oh so well. How odd it is then to find out that the film did not come from Scorsese's imagination. Instead it is a remake of the 2004 Hong Kong action/thriller "Infernal Affairs". But, that doesn't really matter because Scorsese takes the material and makes it his own.
"The Departed" is going to get some unfair comparisons with "Infernal Affairs" from devoted fans of the original. I never like to do that. I also don't like when people compare the book to the movie version. Both pieces of work exist within their own world. They are seperate from each other.
Leonardo DiCaprio (the recent favorite of Scorsese, whom in my opinion needs to find a new muse already) plays Billy Costigan, who comes from a poor working class family that mostly consist of family member who were on the wrong side of the law (depending which side of the law you're on). He has managed though to work his way up and become a cop.
Matt Damon plays Colin Sullivan, who appears to be the exact opposite. Sullivan is one of those people who probably got straight "A's", stayed at home and studied while you were out playing baseball and was a loner. He too has become a police officer who is well thought of and clearly on a successful path.
These two characters never share a great amount of screentime together in "The Departed" but their impact on each other is apparent throughout the entire film.
Costigan is told by one of his superior officers Oliver Queenam (Martin Sheen) that because of his background he is not really "police material". Queenam flat out tells him you will never make it as a cop. So Queenam tells Costigan he has a special assignment for him. He wants Costigan to go undercover and get into Frank Costello's (Jack Nicholson) inner circle where the Boston Police have been trying to arrest him for years.
"The Departed" soon takes on one of Scorsese's favorite themes, childhood loyalty. Sullivan, back in his youth, became very friendly with Costello and now as a cop has turned into a crooker officer. How will the Boston police ever catch Costello?
The performances in "The Departed" are all pitch perfect. DiCaprio and Damon, who get top billing, are not just the only two worth watching. Even supporting characters like the ones played by Alec Baldwin and just so it's not all all boy's show, Vera Farmiga as Madolyn are both enjoyable to watch. But, perhaps the most memorable performances is the one given by Jack Nicholson. Rarely has an actor relished playing a villian moreso. The sheer exuberance of his performance makes the screen come alive. This isn't the Jack of recent films like "Something's Gotta Give" and "About Schmidt". Jack lets loose here and plays the role with the same spirit he did the Joker in "Batman". I would even go as far as saying every performance here deserves to get an Oscar nomination.
Some people may ask is this film as good as Scorsese's other films? That's a stupid question. Who cares? It seems, according to the reviews and box-office numbers (this marks Scorsese's highest box-office debut) people are responding well to this film. It is a powerful, well made gangster film that is about more than violence. As I said it is about loyalty and who we choose to give that loyalty to. This is one of the best films of the year! In fact the movie is so good I'm sure Scorsese will lose another Oscar race, just as his best films always do.
Bottom-line: One of the year's best films. "The Departed" finds Scorsese going back to the gritty mean streets of his past and makes this remake a work of his own. Every performance here deserves to get nominated.
22 of 30 people found the following review helpful
Martin Scorsese should easily finally take home his first Academy Award for Best Director for "The Departed". With consummate skill he has assembled bewilderingly complex and varied ingredients: performers, story, settings, photography - with the result being a film that grabs your attention in the first few moments and doesn't let up until the credits roll. The film clocks in at a minute less than 2 1/2 hours. With about 10 minutes left the Mrs. and I shared that we both needed a bathroom break after our half-gallon sodas... but neither of us dared leave.
The screenplay, I learn, was adapted by William Monahan from a Hong Kong script by Siu Fai Mak which was translated into English as "Internal Affairs". I also read that Mr. Scorsese didn't see the Chinese film but, rather, worked from an English translation of the "Internal Affairs" script. The story is a compelling narrative. Mr. Monahan has adapted the story to a Boston setting of Irish cops and gangsters. The dialog is full of sharp, witty one-liners, but also with a realistic, gritty ring of truth. The language reflects the setting of South Boston, not Sesame Street, so if your ears burn with the constant use of profanity - you may want to wait for an "edited for TV" version.
The cast is brilliant. Leonardo DiCaprio gives a sizzling performance as a Boston "Southie" who joins the police force at a tender age, but because of his family (his father was a local tough guy and his uncle a low level mobster)and intelligence(we're told he scored 1400 on his SAT - not usual police recruit material) he is recruited by a secret undercover unit to infiltrate the local mafia. We see him put through a grueling interview by his to-be superiors, Martin Sheen, full of paternal wisdom, and Mark Wahlberg, full of suspicions and vulgarities (but with many of the movie's best moments in a role that is no higher than maybe 5th or 6th billing.) At the same time DiCaprio is being recruited to infiltrate the mob, Matt Damon has been sent by the same mob to join the police force where, with his intelligence, etc, he is soon in a parallel secret unit investigating both his boss, Irish Mobster Frank Costello (in yet another defining performance by Jack Nicholson) and the "mole" who it is apparent has infiltrated the police force. (Among the many fine scenes are one where Damon gets to inform Nicholson that he is now leading the investigation to find - himself.)
Jack's performance is a Nicholson special. Frank Costello is a nearly untouchable sociopath. (The reason Costello is "ungettable" by the Massachusetts police force is one of dozens of intricate twists and sub-plots.) Costello is vulgar and menacing and everyone in Boston quakes in his presence, from local priests to the scariest hit men. The Mrs. and I differ in our opinion of whether the film revolves around Costello (her view), since all the other characters revolve around him and, after all, he's played by the great Jack Nicholson, or whether DiCaprio's Billy Costigan is the main character (my opinion), since he has the most screen time and, if this story has a protagonist, Costigan is it. It's enjoyable to discuss such things, but it's quibbling. "The Departed" has so many well-drawn characters breathed to life by stellar actors in brilliant performances that it could easily populate two *good* films!
Vera Farmiga was previously unknown to me, but she delivers in the only major female role as a police psychiatrist who graduated from Harvard, but takes the presumably lower-paying position because she wants to serve her community while she also helps her patients. In one of the trickiest roles of the film she becomes romantically attracted to both "moles", not knowing the "true identity" of either until the climax of the film. Her steely determination after she discovers that Matt Damon is the police department "rat" reminds me of Alida Valli's famous performance in "The Third Man" and her final scene in this movie (walking away from a funeral in a cemetery towards the camera in a single shot, completely ignoring the man who thinks he has romantic possibilities with her) is an obvious homage by Scorsese to Carol Reed's film classic.
Ray Winstone (as Costello's right-hand man, "Frenchie") and Alec Baldwin (as the over-matched police detective who is trying to bring together the various machinations of the Boston detectives and undercover mob infiltrators) lead the next tier of supporting performances. It's just another sign of the overall quality of Mr. Scorsese's picture that actors who would "star" in other films take on roles that in other films would be fleshed out by unknowns.
The plotting and timing are relentless. There are a half dozen scenes with more edge-of-your-seat white-knuckle tension than a hundred chainsaw and machete wielding madmen movies combined. DiCaprio's performance brings home the fear that the character must have constantly been feeling. If discovered, he would certainly be killed by Costello's mobsters in a way that would serve as an example. The film ends, I think, as it must, and it's fair to say it's a Noir ending and not a "Hollywood" ending. Over the weeks leading up to this year's Academy Awards this film will be praised more than the last 25 films nominated for "Best Picture" combined. All the praise and hoopla will make "The Departed" and it's various investors a lot of money. This makes me wonder - if great films like this are profitable, why bother with the other 99% of brainless dreck that shows up at my local cineplex every week? Just wondering.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on July 3, 2007
This may be Martin Scorsese's crowning achievement. It did, after all, finally bring that elusive first, and very much deserved, Best Director Oscar. The Departed goes straight to the top of my favorite Scorsese movies, ahead of Taxi Driver (Two-Disc Collector's Edition) and GoodFellas (Two-Disc Special Edition).
The film centers around two men- one an undercover cop who infiltrates a Boston crimelord's gang, and the other a Massachusetts "Statey" who is secretly in the employ of that same Boston crimeboss. Leonardo DiCaprio as the undercover, and Matt Damon as the crooked cop, are outstanding in these roles.
Both sides of the law soon discover that they have a mole in their organization, and efforts are made to learn his identity. That's the main plot line, and Scorsese does a masterful job of building the tension to an almost unbearable level. You will find yourself almost holding your breath as DiCaprio and Damon try to function in their respective worlds without being found out for who they are.
Supporting the leads is an all-star cast led by the incomparable Jack Nicholson as the kingpin of the Irish Mafia in Boston. It's typical Jack, which is to say it's brilliant. Mark Wahlberg received an Oscar nod for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of a sargeant in the Massachusetts State Police. Also present are Martin Sheen and Alec Baldwin as police captains, and they do good work here. But the rest of the cast is outstanding, too, as they play the balance of the cops and Irish Mafia members convincingly well. There are no weak performances.
The movie contains strong, brutal violence and coarse language, but it isn't gratuitous. It is necessary to the story and character development, and the stark, in-your-face manner in which it is presented pulls the viewer emotionally into the lives of those men perpetrating the violence and suffering it.
I enjoyed everything about this movie- even the music is a joy- and repeat viewings further my appreciation of an expertly crafted piece of film making. The Blu-ray disc is of course beautiful, and has good extras included, but any version of this movie is going to make you happy you bought it. It is an instant classic by one of the greatest American directors ever.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
I went into my viewing of 'The Departed' with more than a bit of cynicism. Having seen the film 'The Departed' was based upon - the Hong Kong thriller 'Infernal Affairs' - I was prepared to take a snobbish view that the original was far superior. Adding to my skepticism was a neat little line I read in the press to the effect that Hollywood had just bestowed upon Martin Scorsese its Best Picture prize for what is, by most opinions, approximately Mr. Scorsese's sixth-best film. [For instance, 'The Departed' could be the second-coming of the 'The Godfather' and in no way could it surpass the brilliance of Scorsese's 'Goodfellas.' I hope there's more than a few voters now kicking themselves for casting their votes on 'Dances With Wolves' - a film that hasn't aged well at all, especially given Costner's post-Wolves car wreck of a career vs. Scorsese's decades-long brilliance.]
Anyway, surprise, surprise: 'The Departed' is brilliant on its own merits. It borrows from - but does not copy exactly - Alan Mak and Felix Chong's original conception. The three things that make the 'The Departed' succeed are:
1. Scorsese's uncompromising vision - 'Infernal Affairs' featured some some pulled punches: a fateful fall from a building ends with a bloodless, almost artful landing on a car roof; and the ending seems to have been crafted with a sequel in mind (and, indeed, 'Infernal Affairs' spawned a profitable trilogy). No such pullback from Scorsese: the same fateful fall results in a shocking splatter of blood; and the film's brutal denouement - which ends quite differently from the original - lays waste to any possibility of a sequel.
2. William Monahan's brilliant adaptation - His script mashes up the Mak/Chong 'Affairs' tale with elements of 'The Brothers Bulger.' The result is a hand-in-glove fit for its Boston setting. And, as a native Bostonian, I found most of the accents spot-on, led by locals Mark Wahlberg and Matt Damon.
3. The Damon/DiCaprio/Wahlberg triumvirate - These three guys are outstanding. Damon continues to choose great roles and perform brilliantly in them. He's the key to the film, having to sell the covert version himself both to his police superiors and the movie audience. He goes for the full-out, Southie-bred Bostonian here. It's an awesome portrayal. For those who think that's not acting, compare him here vs. takes on Jason Bourne and Tom Ripley. This guy is a force. DiCaprio is his equal here, but the surprise here is Wahlberg. His role simply didn't exist in 'Affairs.' It's a relatively small part, but Wahlberg completely steals every single second he's on the screen. He deserved that Oscar nomination.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Martin Scorsese has never won an Academy Award. He has directed "Mean Streets," "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore," "Taxi Driver," "Raging Bull," "Goodfellas," "Gangs of New York," and "The Aviator," among others. He was nominated six times for the Best Director Oscar, yet never managed to snare one. For his last two nominations, there was a contingent of show-biz folks who felt he was a shoo-in. His time had come, they figured. But Scorsese remained a bridesmaid.
In "The Departed," Scorsese's elegant new feature about good guys and bad guys, the director has chosen subject matter that fits him like a glove. Once again, he returns to the underworld and toys with the complexities of right and wrong in a society in which "Might Makes Right" rules and bad and good are painted not in black and white, but in shades of grey.
Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson) is a Boston gangster who learned early that you have to take what you want; no one is going to give you a free ride. He's applied this principle in his day-to-day dealings, terrorizing rival thugs and his own crew. Despite an ongoing investigation of Costello by the police, they can't seem to get anything solid enough on him to make an arrest.
Having established the criminals, Scorsese switches to a graduating class of police recruits. Among them is Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) who, as a kid, was taken under the wing of Costello, and Billy Costigan (Leonardo Di Caprio), a smart young man trying to escape his family's criminal ties. Both will figure significantly in the Boston police's plan to infiltrate Costello's inner circle. Only two men on the force, Capt. Queenan (Martin Sheen) and his tough-talking second-in-command, Dignam (Mark Wahlberg), know who that infiltrator is.
"The Departed" has a superb script by William Monahan. It is riveting, never predictable, and provides solid roles for its four stars. The dialogue is rough, as are the men -- both cops and mobsters -- who work the mean streets of Boston. And there is violence -- a lot of it. When it occurs, it is often shocking with little buildup. This tends to shake up the viewer and keep him on his toes.
Nicholson is an actor it's always fun to watch, but he can be excessive and allow his trademark quirks to run away with his performance. In "The Departed," Scorsese keeps Costello in focus, never letting that devilish Jack wink at us. Nicholson is immersed in his performance. As an aging gangster, his Costello hasn't lost any of his bravado, his ruthlessness, or his ability to kill. Nicholson plays Costello with dimension. He doesn't resemble any crime figure seen on screen before. His Costello is unique.
Di Caprio turns in his finest performance since "What's Eating Gilbert Grape." His Costigan is a deeply conflicted guy, placed in a dangerous situation by higher-ups who have faith in him to accomplish a difficult mission. He wants to succeed, but his personal safety is compromised with each day, causing him to balance his fear with focus on the job at hand. Di Caprio brings an intensity to the role that audiences haven't seen in his previous work. This is surely an Academy Award-worthy performance.
Damon and Wahlberg, both natives of Boston, draw upon their own background to provide characterizations of two very different kinds of men. Damon's Sullivan is a smart cookie who rises quickly in the ranks of the police department. He is secretive, authoritative, often arrogant to those under his command, and calculating. Damon gives Sullivan a preppy edge. His Sullivan is a man who's gone far and is capable of going even further. The combination of his intelligence, drive, and cold-heartedness makes him a deadly person.
Wahlberg's Dignam contrasts with the laid-back demeanor of his boss, Capt. Queenan. He mouths litanies of profanities as fluently as an announcer would do play-by-play for the Red Sox. He's a cop, but he's never exorcised the tough streets of Boston from his being. He calls things as he sees them, without tact, political correctness, or artifice. What you see is what he is. Wahlberg brightens an already stellar picture by sinking his teeth into this role and running with it. Like Di Caprio, none of his earlier screen work matches his intensity in "The Departed."
The cast is rounded out by Alec Baldwin and Vera Farmiga, who portray a police captain and a police psychiatrist, respectively.
For the last five years, I've been squarely against excessive running times. Often, such long movies can be trimmed, benefiting the overall film. Yet directors continue to give us overly long, padded movies that outstay their welcome long before the final credits roll. "The Departed" runs 149 minutes, yet there is never the feeling that any of those minutes is extraneous. The screenplay is crafted so deftly that every scene, every bit of dialogue, every close-up has a significant role to play.
I've seen many movies in 2006 and "The Departed" is easily the best. No question. All the elements come together perfectly. The film's editing is quick and exciting, never sacrificing characterization in the process. Not since Clint Eastwood's "Mystic River" has a director managed to corral such talent in a single film and come up with a winner.
"The Departed," plain and simple, is masterful movie making. Director Scorsese has assembled a letter-perfect cast in a movie that showcases both that cast and his own ability to fashion intriguing cinema.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Every time Martin Scorsese releases a new picture, the Oscar talk begins. Obviously, the world waits breathlessly for the next "Taxi Driver" or "Raging Bull" or "Goodfellas"--but it's not easy to craft a film of such enduring appeal. "The Aviator," his last Best Picture nominee, is a handsome biopic bolstered by good performances--but hardly elicits the same passion as the Scorsese classics. And "Gangs of New York," the nominee prior to that, is a genuinely muddled mess led by a terrific performance by Daniel Day Lewis. So that you may calibrate this review, I'm going to say it right now--in no way did "Gangs of New York" deserve to be among the top five films of it's year.
"The Departed" is this year's candidate, and I have no doubt it will receive many accolades from the Academy. It's a vastly entertaining tale based on Hong Kong's "Infernal Affairs." I don't know that I consider it to be among Scorsese's best work--but it certainly brings back a life and passion absent from some of his recent efforts. Brasher and more viscerally exciting than "The Aviator," more coherent and intelligent than "Gangs of New York"--"The Departed" does remind you of the pictures made on the mean streets of Scorsese's earlier classics. And while the film is abundantly entertaining, thrilling and twisty--it is not without flaws either.
First, the good. It's a terrific plot well executed--complicated and morally ambiguous. You can't help but be impressed with the layer upon layer of complexity as our characters live in worlds that are based on lies. How do you maintain the essence of yourself when you exist in a state of pretense? How to you survive and thrive when one mistake could mean your life? There are knotty ethical issues to be wrestled with throughout the picture--a lot more for the viewer to think about and contemplate than in your traditional action fare.
Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio give fully realized, dynamic performances. It may be a career high for both actors--I appreciated their immersion into these men. They are bold and challenging portraits of two people trapped within situations that now define them. Free choice is limited and you can't play by the rules. Ruthlessness and dishonesty become necessary to survive--their lives parallel beautifully even though they are at odds. Nice characterizations from Mark Wahlberg and Martin Sheen are highlights as well. Wahlberg, in particular, has rarely been so alive on the screen.
One element in the film that has been debated is Jack Nicholson's performance, however. Either you think it is a brilliant Jack Nicholson role or you wish for a little more restraint. Well, I almost always wish for some restraint with modern Nicholson (aside form the nice nuanced role in "About Schmidt")--but here, his over-the-top portrait actually serves the film well. I enjoyed his antics and it worked as a suitable counterpoint to the younger performers.
The one element of the film I really struggled with, however, is the female character. Played by Vera Farmiga--she is more of a plot convenience than a real asset to the film. Awkwardly and unbelievably positioned between Damon and DiCaprio, she does little to heighten the drama. It's a huge suspension of belief to put her into the middle of things--and with only an unnecessary romantic subplot to show for it, it just isn't worth it. It's not Farmiga's fault, but the film came to a screeching halt every time she entered into it (especially her absurd doctor/patient interactions with DiCaprio).
I definitely recommend "The Departed." Close to a great film, it's deliriously entertaining. KGHarris, 11/06.