A mob boss raises one of his own to infiltrate a police force and feed out inside information on high profile investigations into his organisation. But it would seem two can play that game…
Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson) has practically run his part of Boston for years via dodgy dealings and violence despite any amount of police operations to bring down his gang. Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) was practically raised by Costello and trains as an officer of the law in order to access information about cases against his boss’s gang. However, this happens just as the police are about to send William Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) undercover into Costello’s gang, and it inevitably becomes an issue of who can sniff the rat out first.
The Departed is a wonderful modern day thriller with a story that is both well written, well directed and ultimately well acted. Jack Nicholson adopts the persona audiences have been captivated by in previous films such as The Shining and One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest as mob boss Costello and proves that the years have not mellowed him. Nicholson’s talent shines through as his character grows more and more unstable with the ever growing knowledge that there is a wasp in the hornet’s nest. Matt Damon as Colin Sullivan is a far cry from the good guy he normally is, with his nature constantly changing from someone who is in control to becoming instantly unpredictably whenever a situation isn’t going his way and he isn’t impressing Costello. Leonardo DiCaprio as William Costigan however is truly magnificent. William is a young man desperate to join the police, but struggles immensely due to his somewhat checkered past. Due to his connections with Costello’s gang, William is told in order to prove himself as a loyal and trustworthy candidate, he must infiltrate the gang. DiCaprio played his character brilliantly, perfectly showing the way William was trapped by the decisions he had had to make, and the way this affected him as a person. How this man has not had an Oscar yet is beyond me.
There is also a few other famous faces to back up this already stellar line-up. Martin Sheen and Mark Wahlberg play the cops in charge of the undercover unit and are the bad guys at the start who force Costigan into the job he is very reluctant to take. Alec Baldwin heads up the department penetrated by Sullivan and Costello’s gang is reinforced with the likes of Ray Winstone and Mark Rolston who we all hated as Boggs in The Shawshank Redemption.
As said before, this film is very well directed by the one and only Martin Scorsese, and I believe it to have been as successful during awards season due to the simplicity of its concept. The story is well written, but the way it was executed made for gritty, realistic viewing. The urgency portrayed by the police force to sniff out the rat was very believable, and the heat felt by Damon as Sullivan was felt by the audience as well.
For me, The Departed did not have the ‘try hard’ element Gangs Of New York possessed – it knew what it was good at and that was enough to carry the film, instead of creating a story that was too complicated for its own well-being in an effort to catapult the film into a new level of notoriety, and this was something that also worked in its favour.
Overall, I strongly believe The Departed to be worth two and half hours of everybody’s time. I very much enjoyed every minute of it, and it certainly, at times, surprised me by taking a sudden turn off of the beaten path without making for a ridiculous plot. It is certain to have you flying by the seat of your pants and rooting for all that is good to come out on top.