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Return to 2006 Films

Index of 2006

An Inconvenient Truth
Big Bad Swim
Brokeback Mountain
Cinderella Man
The Departed
The DaVinci Code
Eron: The Smartest
Guys in the Room

Good Night and
Good Luck

Half Nelson
History of Violence
Hotel Rwanda
Little Miss Sunshine
Journey from the Fall
March of the Penguins
Million Dollar Baby
Prairie Home Companion
Star Wars III:
Revenge of the Sith

Thank You for Smoking
The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada
The Sea Inside
United 93
War of the Worlds
Walk the Line
World Trade Center

The Departed

a review by Tom Condon, OP

Legendary director Martin Scorsese is most often associated with the Mean Streets of Little Italy in New York. In The Departed, he enters the foreign territory of the Boston Irish-Americans. But Scorsese seems so comfortable in Boston, you’d think he was a native New Englander.

Despite the geographical shift, The Departed deals with familiar themes in Scorsese’s mob movies: belonging, loyalty, and betrayal. Jack Nicholson plays Frank Costello, a brutal organized crime boss who has been successful in evading the law. Police Captain Queenan (Martin Sheen) sends undercover cop Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) to infiltrate the gang. Ironically, Frank has his own mole inside the state police, Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon). The screenplay by William Monahan draws the viewer deeper and deeper into the dark world of intrigue and deception until the inevitable confrontation between good and evil.

The Departed is very much a man’s film, with two sets of father-son dynamics operating: Queenan-Billy and Frank-Colin. Both Billy and Colin seek to belong to something more than their humble Irish Catholic roots afforded them. Truth-telling becomes a major theme in the film with both Billy and Colin. Even though they are on different sides of the law, both Billy and Colin pay a great price for hiding their true identities under hostile circumstances. Ironically, the only one whom they can trust is Madolyn, a police psychologist. Ultimately she must determine who is telling the truth about himself and who is lying.

Working with long time collaborators Michael Ballhaus (cinematographer) and Thelma Schoonmaker (film editor), Scorsese moves between breathless action scenes and intense introspective moments. There are several great scenes: Frank’s gang slipping through the hands of the police while selling materials to Chinese spies, Billy tracking Frank and Colin in and out of an adult theater, and a climactic confrontation on a warehouse roof. A final scene of a rat scurrying across a balcony serves as a wonderful final comment. With scenes like these, you never forget you are in the confident hands of a master filmmaker.

Scorsese’s first rate cast delivers fine performances. Nicholson steals every scene he is in as the monstrous Frank. After several films in which he has played flawed but lovable characters (e.g. As Good As It Gets), Nicholson delves down into the heart of darkness here. There’s nothing lovable about Frank, yet you can’t take your eyes off him. DiCaprio is also excellent as Billy, living undercover, not knowing from one minute to the next whether Frank and his thugs will embrace him or kill him. In his third film with Scorsese, Leonardo has grown tremendously as an actor. In less showy roles, Damon and Sheen are also excellent.

As good as the film is, I offer a caution: Scorsese’s world of cops and gangs is an extremely violent, profane world. People are shot, stabbed, beaten, and thrown off buildings. The language among both police and gang members is as raw as it gets. If you know me, you know that there were times when I had to turn away from the screen. So be forewarned. Yet, I never got the sense that the violence was gratuitous, as in so many other action and horror “gross out” films. In this brutal world, there is no happy ending. Regardless of what side of the law one is on (and that’s not always easy to tell), no one walks away from the brutality untouched by the violence and corruption. In this increasingly violent world, without a firm moral compass, no one escapes unhurt. Maybe that’s the ultimate message that Scorsese wants to impress upon us.

Tom Condon, OP

MPAA Rating

The USCCB classification is L -- limited adult audience.

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