Martin Scorsese brings the gangster underworld to light once again in his direction of the film The Departed (2006). This time, instead of the Italian mob, he introduces a sector of the Irish mob in Boston led by Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson). In this film, the police attempt to catch Costello and his crew in order to rid themselves of the gang. This jumpstarts a game of cat and mouse featuring a rat and a mole.
The Departed slots itself in the dramatic/crime/thriller movie section. Scorsese implements dramatic irony throughout the movie as it allows the audience to see both what Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) are doing as they work as foils of the other. The moments the audience leaves one character for the other leaves them in suspense as they can’t help but wonder what the next scene will bring.
Morally, Scorsese sends out a pretty clear message: do not get involved in a life of crime, it doesn’t lead to a very good place. Also, authority figures are not always what they seem, because of this, one can’t work under the assumption that those in charge are morally sound. Some may be more obvious than others but you need to make the right choices.
Through their twists and turns, the characters of the film and become well developed. Every kink in their armor is shown to the audience and every scrap of information slipped here and there allow the viewer to get a grasp on each character. Yet, having a good grasp on a character doesn’t exactly endear you to them. Scorsese brings forth flawed characters whose motivations usually hinge on survival which isn’t the best platform for sympathy. Specially when they deal with death as much as gangsters do.
If any emotion jumped out of the screen in this film it’s paranoia. Paranoia is seen in every character through every step of the way and leads to the demise of many through multiple. It eats away at their psyche as they face man vs. self scenes and over-all it leads to violence and anxiety in man vs. man battles. Although man vs. man conflicts are to be expected in a gang movie, the man vs. self conflict was the central conflict. As characters questioned their nature, their nurture, and their actions the film develops and the suspense of who will win? and how will they react? adds up.
The film is definitely strong in its depiction of characters. Watching this movie, I felt like I understood their intentions and their motivations although I did not agree with their reasoning. Because of this, the actors in this movie definitely made the story click. There were points where the violence was so prominent I turned down my volume so I wouldn’t have to hear them suffer so much. I also paused the movie after some intense scenes just to get a break from the painful action. To be honest, if it weren’t for this class I probably wouldn’t have watched this movie.
This movie did not mind getting its hands dirty—or bloody— and that’s honestly not my style. There was also no satisfactory ending to this movie. It was good in the fact that I did not predict it, however, I was really annoyed about how it ended. It felt like someone had a blood splatter effect and said gee, we have not used this enough, let’s get a bang for our buck in the ending.
This film was very heavy in Scorsese’s trademarks. It dealt with crime and violence, it showed a depart from religion, held corrupt leaders, had beautiful sky shots, and used sound and the lack-thereof to its advantage. The gang characters were always very dismissive towards religion and a clear visual of this was when DiCaprio took a portrait of Jesus and smashed it over the head of a victim.
There was also the interesting dichotomy between DiCaprio’s and Damon’s characters in how their roots and pasts haunted them. They were regarded differently by their peers and the law although they were both treated unfairly. Damon began as an altar boy and DiCaprio came from a family of criminals. They both did not fit in with their roots and it is because of this disparity that we had a movie to begin with.
Yet, it is so important to the movie that they both fight their roots. Through the technical lens, I felt like the introduction of DiCaprio’s character was a lot stronger. With just a flash of a few images the audience knew he was keeping himself tightly in check. The way he dressed, his lack of movement towards an exam until the second hand reached 0, and his neat circles in his exam. I thought those visuals were spectacular and told a story without words.
Sound wise, it is clear that Scorsese kept up with contemporary artists in the film and used very popular songs. However, I found his silences more interesting than the music cues. The long pauses between translations, the moments taken to find the right answer, and moments when characters literally had to sit in the dark in silence to cope. Those scenes were like deep breaths taken before a punch lands.
Although this was a good technical movie I would not watch this again. As I said, this is not my style. The blood splatters, the unending streams or curses, and the uncomfortable addresses to female characters left me cringing. I would give this movie 3/10 strawberries.