Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Departed

Two members of the same graduating class of the Massachusetts State Police are thrown into a dog-eat-dog cat and mouse game, one (Leonardo DiCaprio) sent deep undercover to take down a Boston crime lord (Jack Nicholson), the other (Matt Damon) a mole in the department for the ruthless gangster. Based  on Infernal Affairs, a 2002 picture out of Hong Kong, and also on the exploits of organized crime boss Whitey Bulger (whose trial just played out in spectacular fashion), Martin Scorsese's The Departed is one of the great cinematic juggling acts with William Monahan's screenplay right on up there with Casablanca, The Third Man, and Chinatown. There are purists who defend Wai-keung Lau's picture, and while it's never fair to knock an original, especially one that's very good in its own right, when comparing it to the remake it is like checkers to chess. As for the acting, I think this is Leo's best work (his scenes with Vera Farmiga are incredibly powerful), Damon is stalwart and carries much of the picture, and the supporting cast, which also includes Martin Sheen, Ray Winstone, Alec Baldwin, and Mark Wahlberg (aside from his over-the-top introductory scene), is phenomenal. The one exception, sad to say, is Nicholson who is at his creepiest, screen gnashing worst and barely successful in the fearsome way the film intends.