Friday, October 20, 2006

The Departed

By Reymundo Salao

A complex crime drama of lies, betrayal and secrets, THE DEPARTED is set in Boston where the state police force is waging a war against an organized criminal syndicate led by Frank Costello. Billy Costigan is a young undercover cop who is assigned to infiltrate the gang of Costello. On the other hand, there is Collin Sullivan who is a police officer rising to the upper ranks, but actually secretly works for the criminal Costello. Things heat up as Costello realizes that he has an infiltrator among his men and similarly, the police force is also in high tension as they realize that a mole is among their midst. Costigan and Sullivan each go through a deadly face-off of trying to survive by pointing out each other, to the death.

Despite of this movie being one of Martin Scorsese's most powerful films, THE DEPARTED is actually a remake, based upon the Hong Kong action thriller "Infernal Affairs". But Martin Scorsese is one of Hollywood's most impressive directors that are up there in Lordship when it comes to cinema. Scorsese's works have become greatly influential, especially in many of Hong-kong's gangland action films, that is why some might consider that with "The Departed" Scorsese returns the favor.

A thrilling crime & gangland suspense, Scorsese knows how to set the mood for a crime-infested world without needlessly utilizing light, color, props and other visuals. He paints the atmosphere through his actors which all give out powerful performances. The minimal use of cliché crime-atmosphere visuals present a very realistic portrayal, that in any normal society, such dark and ugly things might still exist.

The film has a feel that reminds us of how Scorsese makes his earlier films. Like that in "Taxi Driver", "GoodFellas" and "Mean Streets". "classic Scorsese", so to speak. Simple, direct to the point, no big elaborate cinematographic style, just direct to film gritty drama. Its no-nonsense pace works well, with a cold-blooded, shocking style that evokes realism. Story shifts from point A to point B without so much as bull@#it to filter the impact of the storyline.

The movie boasts a Trinity of lead performers, starting off with Jack Nicholson, whose long been away from playing villains, so much so, that when I saw the trailer for this movie, I initially thought it was going to be one of his comedies that I rarely watch. Good thing, he's back to hard-edged acting. His portrayal of a crime lord is ruthless and devilishly cool.

Usually, I hate DiCaprio. Maybe it's the whining of fangirls even at the very mention of his name, or the ultra-popularity of him and that overs-zed lovestory Titanic (one of my most hated movies). Ive always thought he was too babyfaced in many of his roles, like that in (also of) Scorsese's "Gangs of New York" But if there is one thing that makes me change my opinion about DiCaprio is that whenever he starts to act onscreen, he becomes a totally different person. He knows how to BECOME the character. Such as in the case of "The Departed" where he takes on a role that makes you forget that you are watching the (sickeningly) popular Leonardo DiCaprio. DiCaprio gets on this role with an edge, magnificently evoking the tense hardboiled police drama that it is.

Likewise, Matt Damon gets on his role masterfully as well. Ive always considered Damon to be such a cool actor, usually taking on a likable character, from his rise in "Good Will Hunting", to his action evolution in "The Bourne Identity" & "Bourne Supremacy", and even in his more comedic roles in "Stuck on You" and "Oceans 11" (& 12). It was a very contrasting, very impressive twist for Matt Damon to play a villainous character on "The Departed". His likable image takes a turn as in this movie, you would hate him totally, making him a more-than-effective villain. The starstrikes don't stop there; the cast also includes Mark Wahlberg and Martin Sheen playing major roles.

THE DEPARTED is dark, gritty, even funny at times. But at the very core of it, it’s still just a mere copycat of the original “Infernal Affairs” So sad, to think that this was supposed to be one of Scorsese’s best work, only to find that it really was just an act of lazily copying somebody else’s masterpiece.


Anonymous said...

Why do you hate Titanic that much?

Anonymous said...

"lazily copying somebody else’s masterpiece."

- hindi ba kaya nga adaptation ito?
at kung sa directorial style lang din naman, makikita mo pa rin ang signature style ni scorsese such as the use of close-ups.

i just find it odd that after you praise scorsese for this movie you will end your review with that.

Unknown said...

- yes... the movie DID have the Scorsese signature. The movie was well-made. The way it was put together, almost flawlessly, without a moment of inconsistency or dryness. But in the end, it proves to be grossly unoriginal. It may be a very good, very beautiful copycat. But, nevertheless, it prevails as a copycat. It's like trying make a copy of the Mona Lisa. You give credit for the effort, but you never deny that it is a mere copycat.

- I know you will probably assume that I take the stand of judging Titanic as an awful movie. nope, i think Titanic is a well-made movie. I just hate it. Period.