The Departed is a movie-lover’s wet dream. It was impossible for this film to be anything less than fantastic, and I think it’s an instant classic. The cast is absolutely stellar, reading like a virtual who’s who of Hollywood. You’ve got Martin Sheen (Apocalypse Now, The West Wing), Mark Wahlberg (Four Brothers), and Alec Baldwin (Malice, Glengarry Glen Ross)…and that’s just the supporting cast. Any one of these actors could carry a movie on his own, but perhaps the most important name attached to The Departed is that of its legendary director, Martin Scorsese. Scorsese is responsible for some of the greatest movies of the last 30 years, and it ought to be a crime that he hasn’t won an Academy Award yet. Goodfellas, Casino, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull…I dare say that the man is at least partly responsible for making Robert Deniro one of the finest American actors of our time. I think you get the idea.
The Departed’s premise is an enticing one: the Irish Mafia, led by boss Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson of Batman, As Good As It Gets) has placed a mole in the Massachusetts State Police Department. Conversely, the police have one of their own deep undercover in Costello’s organization. Matt Damon (The Bourne Identity, The Talented Mr. Ripley) plays Colin Sullivan, Costello’s unofficially adopted son, and Leonardo DiCaprio (The Aviator, The Basketball Diaries) stars as Billy Costigan, the undercover officer. I still think that Matt Damon is rather underrated, but hopefully that’s a notion that can be dispelled permanently. He lends his character a charming craftiness, giving Sullivan a resourceful arrogance that permeates the film. DiCaprio is simply masterful in his portrayal of Costigan as tortured but courageous. His character must reveal and exploit his own weaknesses in an attempt to curry Costello’s trust. Costigan is sympathetic without being weak, fearful without seeming cowardly. Nicholson is tailor-made for his role as ruthless mobster, and he does it as only he can do it. He’s got the eyebrows raised in his trademark sneer, and he has the same demented look he wore in The Shining. The Departed is also cleverly-written, with lots of salty dialogue and ‘F-bombs’ aplenty. I loved it! By the way, I think Mark Wahlberg has replaced Vin Diesel as the #2 bad ass MF in the movies. Of course Samuel L. Jackson is #1, but I digress. Bottom line: The Departed is a must-see movie, and easily the best of ’06 so far.