Pop Culture Junkette

Addicted to pop culture.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Jack, Matt, Leo, and, oh yeah, Marty

Those four names alone make one want to see a movie, and The Departed does not disappoint. While it may not be Goodfellas or Raging Bull, it is a thoroughly captivating, at times hilarious, and extremely vicious film. The acting is, unsurprisingly, outstanding (including, in addition to the principals, Martin Sheen, Mark Wahlberg, and Alec Baldwin) as is the richly developed struggles of the two mirror figures, played by Damon and DiCaprio. Mrs. Bartender and I both highly recommend.

AND FROM HERE ON THERE ARE SPOILERS. Damon and DiCaprio play two young state police officers. Sgt. Sullivan (Damon), however, is a protege of Frank Costello (Nicholson), the head of Boston's Irish mob and is his rat in the force. Billy Costigan (DiCaprio), in contrast, goes undercover and infiltrates Costello's organization. The tensions they both feel in their double lives, which frequently intersect, is the heart of the story as is the question of loyalty. Sullivan is the epitome of this virtue, just unfortunately most of it is shown to the wrong man. He will not betray Costello, until he realizes that Costello himself is nowhere near as faithful as he is. He does not cheat on his girlfriend (although she is not so loyal). He even aspires to something grander--the State House. Considering the past history of Massachusetts political leaders (see, e.g., William Bolger), a connection to organized crime is not disqualifying and this is more than a pipe dream.

DiCaprio is better in this film than anything I have seen him in in years. His Costigan struggles with multiple loyalties that go back to his childhood where he split time between the wealthy north shore and southie and even getting thrown out of an elite prep school. His family, with the exception of his deceased father, was made up of crooks, and the tension between his dichotomous backgrounds is only exacerbated by his ties to both Costello and his police boss, Martin Sheen. Both are father figures to Costigan, who has lost both parents, and trying to decide who he is (while trying to find out who is the rat in the state police) leads to his near collapse.

The film is filled with typical Scorsese sequences, almost all of which keep the viewer riveted. Even though the movie is 2 1/2 hours, it moves along briskly with almost nothing I would cut (the one exception being the opera scene--just a chance for Jack to showboat while adding essentially nothing to the plot). While the plot may push credibility at times, we had such a good time watching the film, it really did not matter. And the final shot is a wonderful combination of humor and a moral that the film tell so well without beating the viewer over the head.

As of now, this would get my vote for Best Picture (but I realize the remaining contenders are just starting to come out).

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