Sunday, October 08, 2006

My Take - The Departed - starring Jack Nicholson and Mark Wahlberg

A Mini Movie Review
By: A. L. “Toni” Anderson

Famed director Martin Scorsese (The Aviator - 2004) (who had not directed a major motion picture since the 1990s), brings another successful project to the screen in The Departed (2006), starring Jack Nicholson (A Few Good Men - 1992), Leonardo DiCaprio (Catch Me if You Can - 2002), Matt Damon (The Bourne Supremacy - 2004), and Mark Wahlberg (Invincible - 2006). Writing credits for the screenplay go to William Monahan (Kingdom of Heaven - 2005) and Hong Kong born director Siu Fai Mak. The film is produced in part by Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt.

The Massachusetts State Police (the “Staties”) are involved in open warfare with Frank Costello (Nicholson), a South Boston criminal mastermind who appears to be untouchable. Exactly what makes him untouchable is not disclosed until very late in the film.

Representing the Staties are Colin Sullivan (Damon), who has strong ties to Costello, and Billy Costigan (DiCaprio), who is paid by the Staties but who goes undercover in Costello’s organization. Oliver Queenan (Martin Sheen of The West Wing) and Detective Dignam (Wahlberg) are in charge of the Special Investigative Unit, and the only two people on earth who know Costigan’s true identity. Costello declares that when he was young, men could become cops or criminals. The Departed shows that it is entirely possible, and highly probable, to be both.

Within the first five minutes, Costello’s violent and prejudicial nature is apparent. In his defense, he is living in a violent and prejudicial world where intolerant jokes are the norm, and dead bodies are as common as twenty dollar bills. To the detriment of both Sullivan and Costigan, they share a connection with Costello. In a strange twist of fate, they also share a connection with Madolyn (Vera Farmigan of The Manchurian Candidate - 2004), a psychiatrist in the employ of the State.

The Departed is a film requiring the audience’s full attention; the blink of an eye or a momentary wandering of the mind might cause one to miss a vital clue. Even so, something crucial is bound to slip by an unsuspecting viewer. The movie’s tagline promises “lies, betrayal, sacrifice” and all of those are here — in spades. It is necessary to keep one’s eyes on the prize in order to have a prayer of detecting either.

The film also stars Alec Baldwin (The Cooler - 2003), Ray Winstone (Cold Mountain - 2003), and Anthony Anderson (Hustle & Flow - 2005), who has recently broken out of his comedic straitjacket. Nevertheless, the film represents the “ultimate Nicholson”; his dry sense of humor is imprinted all over the dialogue. Despite the wry sarcasm, The Departed is an excessively bloody crime drama, with rarely a dull moment. If you can put up with the violence and the racial slurs, you will be highly engaged, and perhaps entertained. [2:29]

♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠

[© 10/08/2006]


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