aknudse2's Movie Review of The Departed

Rating of

The Departed

A Riveting Suspense
aknudse2 - wrote on 09/22/08

"The Departed" is a diverting, exhilarating, and thoroughly entertaining film. Few movies outrank Scorsese's production for shear suspense. This is a film about secrets, and the viewer sits on edge at the ever present fragility of the undercover characters' hidden truths.

The all star cast also delivers a uniformly masterful performance. Even though the viewer knows Colin Sullivan's (Matt Damon) true purpose from the beginning, his winsome earnestness conveys such superficial decency that the viewer is almost deceived into believing that he couldn't be that bad. Likewise, Mr. DiCaprio is fantastic. The audience identifies with Billy Costigan and becomes vested in his success. Superb direction and acting help to suspend disbelief and for two hours enable the audience to care about a piece of fiction as much as they would a real life drama.

The twisting plot and the outstanding acting transpire against the absorbing backdrop of the old boy Boston underworld. Even if the Costello gang is not quite as vivid as the Corleone's, the viewer still feels like he's bearing witness to the syndicate family.

These attributes make for a tremendously thrilling night at the movies, but "The Departed" at best flirts with the type of greatness that might make it memorable five years from now.

First, the film frequently alludes to the psychological strain caused by the adoption of a false identity. Thus, "The Departed" teases us that its plot line might serve as a vehicle to reveal something interesting, if not quite profound, about human nature. Yet, the film's traverse across this seemingly fertile territory shifts mainly between the trite and the confused. The audience member who was riveted during the movie may, upon further contemplation, feel cheated by such unfulfilled promise. Unlike "Crimes and Misdemeanors," "The Departed" doesn't truly delve into the mentally destabilizing depths of human deception; unlike Don Corleone, none of the characters in this film will become an enduring presence in metaphores.

The first factor disappointed but a second factor disturbed me. "The Departed" is an extraordinarily virile film populated by men of action. In contrast, the film's sole significant female is an indecisive naif who lacks even a patina of professionalism. As the movie unfolds, the viewer learns that this is a psychiatrist who sleeps with clients, who is so weak in her counseling sessions that she cannot decide whether or how to prescribe drugs, who cannot decide who she loves (so she sleeps with both), and, who, when she learns that her boyfriend is a cold blooded criminal, locks herself crying in her room while he proceeds to further mayhem and murder. Juxtaposed to the decisiveness of the film's other characters, such exaggerated flimsiness of character is as unbelievable as it is misogynistic. I have not seen all of Scorsese's films, but, in his long and storied career, can any reader think of one character who is a genuinely strong, dominant woman?

Third, the ending disappointed. At the conclusion, the movie resorts to fantastic vigilantism Hollywood style rather than gracefully bowing to the reality that sometimes evil goes unpunished. "The Departed" wove too taut a tale to have such a frayed ending.

Still, these criticisms should be a relatively minor concern on a Sunday evening. Relax and enjoy a riveting, suspenseful drama. For 2 1/2 hours, you will be transfixed.

Recent Comments

Alex - wrote on 09/22/08 at 07:03 PM CT

The Departed Review comment

Great review. Have you seen infernal affairs? It is the same movie as this except hong kong style (at least that is where it was made). Not nearly as good but it also catered to a non American audience at the time. Where would you rank this in terms of Scrosesse's films? My personal preference is in the range of 4-6 with Raging Bull, The Aviator, Taxi Driver (though dated) and maybe even Gangs of New York.

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