The Departed is simultaneously ridiculous and exciting — a potent combination for a watchable movie, but not necessarily a great one.
To be honest, much of the movie plays like a Scorsese parody. The characters are so brash and potty-mouthed with those ridiculous accents. And do you want distracting needle drops? Boy howdy, watch The Departed!
Some of the performances are great, but others are aggressively overacted — especially a movie-torpedoing turn by Jack Nicholson. Mark Wahlberg’s shout-a-thon performance getting the movie’s lone acting Oscar nom is a joke.
On the other hand, the cast is a bottomless well of talent capable of stealing scenes, and they often do. This movie has everybody. DiCaprio and Damon are terrific as leads, and Vera Farmiga keeps up with them. Martin Sheen and Alec Baldwin give my favorite supporting performances.
The movie’s story is excellent (adapted from a 2002 Hong Kong film), as two “rats” on opposite sides of the police-gangster struggle circle around each other. It takes awhile to get going, but the final hour maintains tension with twist after twist (perhaps one or two too many).
There’s a ton of richness in Scorsese’s filmmaking, with recurring visual motifs and character ambiguity. (The sexuality of Damon’s and Nicholson’s characters in particular make for fascinating speculation.)
It teeters on the razor’s edge of corny and brilliant for 2.5 hours, and even after everybody’s shot each other and the credits rolled, I still couldn’t decide where it ultimately landed.
Last thought: Thank God this movie was made during the flip phone era, so conversations end with the satisfying slam of a phone closing.
- Review Project: 2009 Top 100
Very Good (6/8)
Note: This review was originally published elsewhere. Please excuse brevity or inconsistencies in style. If you have questions or feedback, please leave a comment or contact me.