“The Departed” 10 years later
Just realized this year is the 10th anniversary of The Departed being released. Martin Scorsese was already by that time my favorite filmmaker who inspired me to become a writer/filmmaker, but The Departed touched me in such a way. It was my generation’s Scorsese film. The 70’s had Mean Streets and Taxi Driver. The 80’s had Raging Bull. The 90’s had Goodfellas.
The Departed is the film when I meet other filmmaker/writers we all sort of had a similar reaction that this is the type of film that we all view as the benchmark for what makes a great film, the type of films and screenplays we strive to make.
What stood out to me as it still does is William Monahan’s brilliant screenplay (well deserving of it’s Oscar). Monahan’s ear for dialogue and the attitude of the way he wrote those characters it was impossible not to be inspired and influenced by.
Scorsese’s direction of the film is his most assured and at the same time his most restrained. It’s a craftsman at the peak of his level. This is Scorsese showing he can be a genre director like Sam Fuller, Don Siegel and Robert Aldrich.
The soundtrack is perhaps Scorsese’s best (I wore out 4 copies of it).
Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance in it I still rank as his best performance. When you are able to upstage Jack Nicholson the last of the true great actors with star power and charisma you are the best actor of your generation. The fact that he did not get nominated for the film is a travesty.
Mark Wahlberg’s performance is the best of his career. Dignam is mean, infuriating, racist, misanthropic and yet completely dedicated to the case and to Costigan (even though they would love to choke the other to death).
Matt Damon’s Collin Sullivan ranks as one of the most infuriating characters in all of cinema. He’s an insurgent of the lowest order. Groomed from an early age to be his rat bitch for his father figure Frank Costello. His attempts at appearing a decent and honorable police officer makes you wanna puke.
The ending is one of the most nihilistic and yet at the same time most moral endings of all of Scorsese’s films. It’s also a perfect contemptuous middle finger to the simplistic morality of the old Hollywood in which the villain gets his just desserts as the final reel ends (out of nowhere) yet when the hospital shoe coverings on Dignam’s feet enter the frame with the pan up onto his face with a “you know you have this coming” look and Sullivan’s immediate “Alright” followed by his brains blowing out of the back of his head I always cheer.
The Departed is a generational defining film and proof of the power that popular cinema can have.