For a film that finally granted Martin Scorsese with a well-deserved Academy Award win for Best Director, you could call The Departed a tad underwhelming, especially when his other works (specifically Goodfellas and Cape Fear) should’ve nabbed him Best Director and Picture years before. They are also leagues ahead of The Departed, a film that banks on a stellar cast and an intricate story, but not so much on the skills of its director and cinematographers.
While The Departed certainly looks great, its style dwarfs in comparison to the creative and impressive performances that a strong ensemble brings to the table. Personal favourite of mine Jack Nicholson pairs up with the likes of Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, Ray Winstone and Mark Wahlberg in one of his best performances. The Departed follows Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) a mole for the New York Police Department in Frank Costello’s (Jack Nicholson) Irish mafia. Tasked with bringing an end to their reign over New York City, Costigan works his way through the ranks, with his place jeopardized by a mole within the New York police department.
Probably losing some of its shock value to numerous lists listing this among films with shocking turns and twists, The Departed manages to retain its story by giving us a great double edged “who dunnit” style story. The Irish Mafia look for the mole within their ranks, but so do the police force. As the two get closer and closer to figuring out who their respective rats are, the tension spikes and the twists and turns are truly unexpected. Depending entirely on some extremely close calls and tantalising performances, the movie works as a stellar example of thrilling moments mixed in with a superb story.
By far the best part of the movie is the performance that Matt Damon brings, a real change of pace from his plucky and charming performances in the likes of Good Will Hunting or The Martian. Damon’s change in style is aptly felt in one of the better performances of his career, quickly outshining the likes of Mark Wahlberg and Martin Sheen. Sheen in particular provides a strong performance as Captain Queenan, and we’re tremendously lucky to see him share a few scenes with Nicholson.
Not the strongest work Scorsese has ever provided us, not by a long shot, and it suffers from not feeling quite like his work. Goodfellas is a tremendous example of his style and how he brings about the best in his performers, but with The Departed it feels like something is missing. Maybe it’s the Robert De Niro sized hole that’s missing, but that doesn’t impact the film all that greatly. The Departed is a certainly strong piece of film, but just days after watching it, it’s already beginning to slip through my mind as a more forgettable piece of Scorsese’s filmography.