When you think of a modern classic movie, what comes to mind? I would hope that The Departed winds up on the short list in most of your minds. This movie combines everything you would want: a phenomenal cast playing the perfect characters, fantastic story line, well paced action, believable emotions, and some very well placed humor. It is currently sitting as #43 on the best movie list on IMDB, which I personally think is much too low. It has been a favorite of mine for 10 years now. This review may contain spoilers so I do recommend watching it first, coming back to read this, and leaving your thoughts below!
The Departed at its most basic level is about crime and corruption. The two sides involved are the Massachusetts State Police and an Irish gang led by Frank Costello (played masterfully by the great Jack Nicholson). The other two main characters in the story are Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon). Billy is an undercover police officer assigned to infiltrate Costello’s gang, while Colin is working as a mole within the department for Costello. As both Billy and Colin advance up the ladder of their respective groups, it becomes easier to see how the stress of leading double lives is breaking them down. Both the police and Costello have become aware of a rat working for the enemy and attempt to increase their efforts in identifying said rat. The plot moves swiftly along for the entire 151 minute run time. Honestly, it really does not feel that long because you are actively captivated for the duration. I do not want to spoil the entire movie for those who have not seen it, but trust me when I say that it packs quite a punch.
The strengths in this film are quite numerous. The cast is easily one of the strongest casts assembled. Besides the aforementioned three, (DiCaprio, Damon, Nicholson) we also have Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Vera Farmiga, Ray Winstone, Anthony Anderson, and Alec Baldwin for our viewing pleasure. In addition to having great actors, the character portrayals are far from boring cardboard cutouts. It is wonderful to see how they all interact with each other. It feels very genuine and authentic. Another aspect I enjoyed about the characters and the dialogue was how they weaved so much humor throughout all the seriousness of the movie. It was quite refreshing to have the comedic breaks since without it the movie would be even more intense than it already is. As I mentioned before, despite the rather long run time, it travels right along quickly and does not drag during any scene.
I really don’t have any true weaknesses for this movie. The only real complaint is that I have a love/hate relationship with Colin Sullivan’s character played by Matt Damon. He is so easy to hate but that is only because he plays the character so well. Even that could really be listed as a strength since it takes some talent to create such disdain.
It was easy for me to decide on a rating for such an epic movie. With all the strengths stacked up against the lone negative (which is really another strength) the rating chose itself: 0 Apologies! This movie is cinematic perfection and rightly deserves a spot in everyone’s DVD/BluRay collection.