The Departed Review
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August and September tend to be pretty grim months for moviegoers (and, worse, for film critics). The flashy summer blockbusters have all come and gone, and we’re stuck with those late-summer filler movies. Good movies are generally few and far between. But as the leaves start to change colors and the air gets cooler, the award hopefuls are just around the corner.

You can always count on Martin Scorsese to start the season off with a bang—and his latest is sure to snap audiences right out of that late-summer lull.

The Departed is a remake of the 2002 Hong Kong film, Mou Gaan Dou (Infernal Affairs). Scorsese moves the action to the streets of South Boston and to the ruthless Irish mobster Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson). In order to keep control of South Boston—and keep from getting caught—Costello sets up some of his own in the State Police. Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) is a Department favorite from the beginning, and he rises quickly through the ranks. Before long, he’s part of the team in charge of organized crime. His job is to track down Costello—but his bosses don’t realize that their guy with the spotless record is feeding information directly to the enemy.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the office, the Department recruits Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio)—a cadet with a connected family—to infiltrate the Irish mob and set himself up close to Costello. As Costigan’s information gets back to the Department, their plans get back to Costello, and nothing ever works out. Sullivan is put in charge of the investigation to figure out who in the Department is working for Costello—but, more importantly, he’s got to figure out which of Costello’s men is the undercover cop. So as Sulllivan hunts for Costigan, Costigan tries to figure out the identity of Costello’s man on the inside—and it’s a race to see who will hunt down the other first.

The Departed is Scorsese at his best. He’s brought together a brilliant story and a magnificent cast to create a film that will grab you by the throat and won’t let go. Though it’s 150 minutes long, once the real story begins—after all the background stuff is over—there’s no slowing down to catch your breath.

The pieces couldn’t come together much better. You can’t go wrong with Jack Nicholson as a bad guy of questionable sanity. Sure, he’s done well in comedic roles, but this is where Jack belongs. And while I’ve always been skeptical about the boyish DiCaprio, he’s finally won me over. If he keeps acting this well, I could even become a fan.

And, of course, you can’t have a Boston movie without Matt Damon. Surprisingly, though, the usually-sweet-and-innocent Damon makes his cocky-corrupt-cop role work—because you’re never quite sure whose side he’s really on. Matt Damon’s always the good guy, right? Well…maybe not this time. Or maybe he’s really a good guy at heart. You never really know. And that’s what makes his casting so absolutely brilliant—because it messes with your head, just like it’s supposed to.

The cast is loaded with big names, and they all show up on screen and add a little something of their own. But you might want to remember the name Vera Farmiga. After her role as Costigan’s state-appointed psychologist and Sullivan’s girlfriend, I have a feeling you’ll be seeing a lot more of her in the future.

The late-summer slump is over—and it’s time to head back to the theater. The Departed is a shockingly brutal, high-energy film will keep you guessing until it’s over. You’ll never have any idea what’s around the next turn—but you’ll gasp and cringe with the rest of the audience, your rear end firmly planted at the edge of your seat, and you’ll love every minute of it.

Dust off your tux, Marty—awards season is right around the corner.

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