Whether it be the Montagues and the Capulets, The Bloods and the Cripps, or a typical west side story remake, there is something about the friction between trigger-happy, punk-assed kids and the sexy men in blue uniforms that makes us all sit on the edge of our seats.
A daring twist to the usual New York gang spy scenario, The Departed released in the cinemas in October 2006 is the story of two just graduated officers from Massachusetts State Police Academy following opposing sides of the law; William Costigan is assigned to work undercover with the Irish Mobster Frank Costello to get proof to arrest him. His true identity is only known to his Bosses Sean Dignam and Oliver Queenan. Colin Sullivan, Costigan’s counterpart, is promoted in the Massachusetts State Police and is the informer of Costello. Each police officer tries his best to reveal the identity of the other “rat” to secure their own life. It is literarily a life or death situation. It is the story of lies betrayal, sacrifice and ultimately how far one man is willing to go – in other words, who will be the first to Depart?
The Casting in this film is extremely well suited. Leonardo Di Caprio, playing Billy (William) Costigan and Matt Damon playing Colin Sullivan, make great rivals and both of them do justice to their characters, developing them in different ways. Leo endears his character, Billy, to us through his vulnerability and fear which he shows only to Madolyn like a scared rabbit caught in a trap. On the other hand, our dislike of Matt Damon grows stronger when we see how his character Colin is intimidating Billy, like the shadow of the hunter falling upon the poor rabbit. You empathise with both characters because of the double lives they lead, but while you want Billy to escape unharmed; you want Queenan to catch the infiltrator, Colin.
Though the film is extremely fast paced, Scorsese proves once again his excellence in directing through the relationship he has with his cast and the selective freedom he allows them. The casting of Jack Nicholson as Frank adds a lot of volume and colour to the already colourful Frank, making his role much more believable because of the originality and freshness. One such example would be the scene where Costello throws cocaine at the prostitutes – the last thing you could accuse the movie of is truism. The scenes with Jack Nicholson were improvised to a large extent and were loosely scripted because Scorsese felt that Nicholson would add to the characters fright if he was given the chance to do whatever he wanted.
The film is really enjoyable because of the down-to-earth and witty dialogue. One of my favourite parts of the movie that embody this characteristic is when Frank Costello (Nicholson) meets Colin as a boy in a grocery store and he asks him “you do well in school?” Colin replies “Yeah”. Costello reflects “Good. So did I. They call that a paradox.” It is also the only film that has used the “F” word or derivations of it 237 times and also won an Oscar for Best Picture as well as three other Oscars, forty four wins and forty four nominations. It is also the second remake to win an Oscar for Best Picture. Considering that the first was Ben Hur, it puts this feat on an even higher pedestal for realistic acting.
The reason the acting was so realistic, enabling the movie to create and maintain an intense atmosphere, is because of the amount of research done by actors about their characters before hand. Mark Wahlberg based his performance on the Police Officers who’d arrested him countless times in his youth and the reactions of his parents who had to bail him out with their grocery money. Matt Damon worked in a Massachusetts State police unit out of Boston as research for his characters occupation. He accompanied them on routine patrols, took part in a drug raid and was taught proper police procedures like how to pat down a suspect. Overall, I was impressed with the use of clever cutting and camera work using complex angles and technical tricks to enhance the film’s suspense scenes, for example the scene where Queenan is pushed off the top of the building and lands with a gruesome “splat” right next to Billy. It holds the interest of the viewer in this enthralling 21st Century Crime film capturing the essence of the word subtlety in the departure of those on their way to pearly white gates – or not.
In the end, it’s not about the good or the bad, the rich or the poor, the bold or the beautiful – it’s about The Departed.