Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Chuck Koplinski Reviews "The Departed"

The following review is written by Chuck Koplinski for the latest film from director Martin Scorsese, "The Departed."














The Departed - 4 Stars
Rated R - Running Time - 2:29
by Chuck Koplinski

One of the premiere cinematic craftsmen of the last quarter century, director Martin Scorsese’s films are never less than visually compelling. His last two big screen efforts, Gangs of New York and The Aviator benefited from the filmmaker’s trademark attention to detail as well as his ability to elicit complex performances from his cast while telling a compelling story across a vast canvas. Yet, as much as I admired these two films, they lacked the sense of immediacy and vitality that makes Scorsese’s best work (Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, Goodfellas) burst from the screen and stand head-and-shoulders above his fellow director’s work. Thankfully, this quality is evident from the first frame forward in his latest effort The Departed, a blistering examination of corruption in which each of the film’s main characters fall victim to their own, inescapable moral failings. This is familiar territory for Scorsese as he examines the themes of loyalty, betrayal, guilt and personal honor with a degree of intensity that harkens back to his best work.

Based on the Chinese hit Infernal Affairs, Scorsese’s film takes place in Boston and follows the wake of Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson), an organized crime boss with a small crew but a large reputation for ruthless dealings. Brazen and willing to do anything to get ahead, he strong-arms his way to the top of the crime world and becomes the number one target of Oliver Queenan (Martin Sheen), head of a special investigative unit in the Massachusetts State Police Department, and Agent Ellerby (Alec Baldwin) who leads a federal task force on organized crime. Their best efforts to apprehend Costello have gone for naught, primarily because they’re unaware that one of the mobster’s most trusted men, Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon), has infiltrated the department and is feeding him information from the inside. However, what Costello doesn’t realize is that his newest lieutenant, Billy Costigan (Leonardo DoCaprio) is part of Queenan’s team, working deep undercover.

While the premise may seem a bit hard to swallow, Scorsese presents it in his trademark rapid-fire manner that makes for engrossing storytelling. Within the movie’s first twenty minutes we see Sullivan recruited at an early age by Costello, taken in by his charm and false promises of loyalty, only to be shipped off to the police academy to do his mentor’s bidding from the inside. Scorsese parallels this line of action with Costigan’s story in which he’s convinced to sully his reputation for a greater good, as he tries to separate himself from his less-than-honorable relatives. The film quickly builds up a head of steam and before you know it, we’re swept into this world of corruption in which no one can be trusted and the actions of the main characters often run counter to their true purpose.

With the cast assembled here it comes as no surprise that this is an acting showcase. The Departed features the finest screen acting on display this year to date. DiCaprio and Damon are both required to shift gears throughout as their characters navigate the treacherous waters of two worlds. They’re each exceptional in showing the conflicted natures of these two men. Baldwin is also very good in a scene-stealing role that Oscars are made for (his lewd description of the benefits of marriage may net him that award), as is Mark Wahlberg as Dignam, the only straight officer on the force, while Vera Farmiga as the woman caught between Costigan and Sullivan shines as well. But, of course, these fine performers are all toiling in Nicholson’s shadow and he casts a large one here as he often does. His Costello is a larger than life character, the sort the actor was born to play. A man of enormous appetites and no conscience, he dominates the world he lives in, instilling fear in all he meets with his sheer presence. Nicholson has always been a master at bringing a sense of danger to the parts he plays and that ability is put to good use here. Costello and Nicholson dominate the film turning it into a fascinating expose of aberrant behavior that’s fascinating and frightening.

Nihilistic, brutally violent and effectively employing plenty of gallows humor, The Departed is a masterwork that speaks of how we allow ourselves to be compromised and controlled by our basest impulses, which inevitably leads to a tragic end. While the subject matter may turn some viewers off, those looking for vintage Scorsese will be pleased with what’s on display here. It’s good to have the veteran director back on the cinematic mean streets where he cut his teeth and proves that no one looks into the glass darkly with such an unflinching gaze.

2 Comments:

At 12:26 PM, October 06, 2006, Blogger Don Gerard said...

Yeah, yeah, that is all great, but what is the porno version title going to be (e.g. The Sperminator, When Harry Ate Sally, Fondling Ryan's Privates, An Officer And A Gentleman And A Stewardess, Big, etc.)? I really think you need to start working that in, Chuck.

 
At 4:46 PM, October 06, 2006, Blogger greymatter said...

Don,

You'd really like the reviews on

www.thighswideshut.org

you're welcome :-)

 

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