The Departed is the only Martin Scorsese movie to win Best Picture and Best Director. We all know it should’ve been Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, or Goodfellas, but I’m glad it was something that emphasised what he does best. A hard R crime thriller with shocking gang related violence, heavy profanity, and morally grey characters. The Departed sounds like it was tailor-made for Scorsese, but it’s actually an American remake of the 2002 Hong Kong crime thriller Infernal Affairs. Which technically makes The Departed the first remake to win Best Picture. I’ll admit my only knowledge of the movie was from the Simpsons parody episode “The Debarted.”
Scorsese elevates the foreign source material with a stellar all-star cast and a scenery change to Boston. “I’m Shipping Off to Boston” is the perfect song to kick things off. Jack Nicholson’s last great film role was playing Irish mobster Frank Costello. He’s a laid back gangster based on Whitey Bulger who takes a liking to young Colin Sullivan. Although Brad Pitt produced with the intention of starring, the role went to Boston native Matt Damon instead. Sullivan is the first rat who works as a mole for Costello inside the state police department. Scorsese’s new golden boy Leonardo DiCaprio plays dropout recruit Billy Costigan Jr. Costigan is the second rat who works undercover for the police in order to put Costello away.
Sullivan and Costigan don’t meet until the end, but they’re both flawed and desperate to maintain their cover. Their only direct connection is a psychiatrist played by Vera Farmiga that they’re both sleeping with. Aside from Costello, Costigan has to prove himself in front of his brutal right-hand played by Ray Winstone. The Massachusetts State Police has several big names including Alec Baldwin, Martin Sheen, and Mark Wahlberg. I’ll admit I sometimes get Damon and Wahlberg mixed up since they both have thick Boston accents. Wahlberg is surprisingly the only actor nominated for his role as the profane Staff Sergeant Dignam. The climax is intense, unexpected, and lives up to the title with characters departing left and right. “X’s” are a perfect way to signal death, but ending with a literal rat is a little obvious. The Departed is a well-crafted product of its environment.