Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

20 October 2006

The Departed

I saw Martin Scorsese's new movie The Departed last night very late. Yes, I finally made time to go to a movie. The Departed is a remake of the Honk Kong thriller Infernal Affais, which starred Andy Lau and Tony Leung. Let me first say that I loved the original film. It's a taut, wonderfully acted action movie with some lovely poetic moments as well.

The Departed stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Martin Sheen, Vera Farmiga, Mark Wahlberg, Ray Winstone, Alec Baldwin, and a whole host of other people. (Kind of like The Aviator and Gangs of New York before it.) Let me say that while I liked The Departed, it's not quite Infernal Affairs. It doesn't have the tension and the poetry that Andrew Lau's movie had. It makes up for that by raising the level of the violence in the film. But the thing that was so brilliant about Infernal Affairs was its questions about being a criminal/cop and what the difference between the two men is. Affairs also had this amazing father/son throughline where both men treated both the chief of police and the head gangster as father-figures. The emotional connections between the men was so much more powerful in Affairs than in Departed.

Departed's focus is much more on the lone woman in the cast. I don't want to sound too negative about the film. As I said, I liked it. The script is absolutely superb. It zings along with audacious remarks and its portrait of macho behavior, violence and homophobia inside both criminal circles and law enforcement do a lot to erase the lines between the two. Almost as though they are two gangs, roaming the streets for territory. The Departed also has some of the best acting I've seen this year. All of the performances are fantastic. Leonardo DiCaprio is especially great as the cop turned gangster, but Matt Damon's performance is also excellent. Jack Nicholson is his usual Jack self, though less ironic than usual. He's, obviously fun to watch, but I found myself occasionally shaking my head and rolling my eyes. Alec Baldwin is great as usual (It's not a surprise anymore when he's good. The man is a great character actor. I think we can all just say that now.) My favorite performance, of course, is from Mark Wahlberg who lights up the creen every time he's there. His is an assured, unpredictable performance with an enigma at its center. His character is the most flamboyant in the film (of the normal characters: I'm not counting Jack of course) but the performance is an absolute joy to watch. It rivals my affection for his wonderful performance in I ♥ Huckabees.

The film is a little long. It needs trimming at the beginning and Scorsese spends far more time with Jack than he needs to, but it's still good. It's a shocking, original Hollywood thriller... mostly because it isn't original and it isn't a Hollywood film. Go for the script, the brilliant acting, the excellent cinematography and the awesome soundtrack (with nice additions by Howard Shore.) Hell, go for Marty.

P.S. And if you look closely, you'll see that Scorsese quotes John Ford's The Informer at one point. A nice nod to classic rat cinema about rats.