The third film in the last five years pairing legendary director Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio, The Departed at last offers the exhilarating pay-off worthy of the Scorsese/De Niro collaborations of years past. Gangs of New York and The Aviator had their moments. Both were above-average pieces of filmmaking. Maybe just too epic, too dry and historical. But I'm here to tell you that the third time's the charm, because this is what I've been waiting for. The Departed, which I saw Saturday night, is the Scorsese of old. The legendary director returns to a recipe that has worked so well for the man. The ingredients: urban, immigrant neighborhoods populated by criminals who commit unrelenting violence, curse with amazing creativity and typically carry some hefty Catholic guilt. This time around the source material is the hit Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs and the translation has not been lost.
The acting is superb across the board. Jack is Jack. He damn near falls into caricature with his role as the devilishly violent Boston crime boss Frank Costello. He may chew the scenery but don't tell me it isn't fun to watch. Matt Damon and Leonardo are both fantastic. I have come to expect great acting from Matt Damon but I had forgotten that Leo had the chops. This is his film and he carries it all the way through, bringing a fiery intensity to the man of Billy Costigan, a cop deeply undercover within Frank Costello's crew. The supporting cast is filled with great actors and roles, but none more entertaining than the twosome of Alec Baldwin and Mark Wahlberg. They play a pair of intense and enthusiastic police with some of the best lines in the film, save those of Jack's of course.
Although the movie is well over two hours, you'd never guess it. The plot is taut and the story fast-paced. Credit goes to the great editing to keep things moving along with such a brisk and intense rhythm. Like all of Scorsese's best films, the use of rock music is excellent featuring The Rolling Stones, John Lennon, Pink Floyd, Dropkick Murphys, etc. Music plays almost constantly from beginning to end and adds a punch to many scenes. The violence is as graphic as hell but shows up only in short, explosive jolts. The film may not be particularly deep or emotionally stirring. You don't walk out of the theater with any sort of insight into these characters and the world they inhabit. So this fact keeps it from rising into the ranks with Scorsese's best work (e.g. Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas) But all the same, The Departed is a raucous and thrilling film and definitely one of the year's best. Welcome back, Marty.