When Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Wahlberg and Matt Damon are cast in a film together, you know it’s going to be a first-rate production. Nothing less can be said about The Departed (2006), Martin Scorsese once again hit the nail on the head with his multiple Oscar winner. Set in the tired and troublesome areas of South Boston and Charlestown, Massachusetts. The police are on a constant crack down of ‘gang warfare’ and drug related problems mainly connected with the Irish-American population; where in lies the story.
As a child Colin Sullivan (Damon) grew up idolising crime lord Costello (Nicholson) and how successful he had become. His home life and father had never been anything to be proud of, making him realise he didn’t want to end up in the same position. With the intent of rising up through the ranks in the State Police he finally reaches the top, working alongside foul mouthed Staff Sergeant Dignam (Wahlberg). The one thing no one knows – he is actually a double agent with the sole aim of keeping Costello home free, not dead or behind bars for the rest of his life.
While Sullivan was growing up, he had a counterpart, William Costigan Jr (DiCaprio) that looked up to his father who served as a cop. His goal – to rise up through the ranks of the State Police programme too, being the best he can be, for no other reason than to make his family proud. After being dismissed for being an unsuitable candidate he finds himself being offered the opportunity of becoming an undercover agent. No one will ever know of his achievements or failures; however he would be contributing to the greater good. The task – to infiltrate Costello’s gang and feedback intel on his schemes, with the end result of catching him red handed.
This is where The Departed gets interesting. Now both parties are within their chosen establishments they realise that there are moles within each other’s departments, just not who it is. The film flicks back and forth between their ‘real’ lives and their covert ones. To throw an added complication into the mix, Sullivan meets a lady along the way, falling in love and making plans which is all well and good, until she meets Costigan. Love, which always makes the clear seem opaque.
While sounding like a love story, The Departed is anything but. Scorsese tells a tale of dishonesty, retribution, and loyalty in a way that audiences will be able to understand. The constant twists and turns that keep the audience on the edge of their seats is one of his many talents. The tension is palpable and so are the shocked gasps. When you think it may be over, he flips everything. One of my favourite parts of The Departed – the tumultuous Irish music played throughout. It’s violent and aggressive much like the characters.
Dicaprio once again takes a character and creates depth and passion. Nicholson as always, is intimidating and forceful (but maybe getting a little too old for these roles) none the less he pulls it off. In one of the first roles where I have detested Damon, I cannot decide if this was Scorsese’s intention or my personal opinion, either way an arrogant ass he is. Wahlberg play’s a character that’s not entirely in the spotlight, but remember him you will, maybe because of the pure ‘maleness’ he embodies in this role, or his foul mouth.
Thanks to The Departed I now have a new love for the Irish culture.