The Departed (2006) Directed by Martin Scorsese
Nostalgia increasingly plays a large part in our perspective responses to what we think is good or bad. I don't just mean this on a critical level. It could be in any respect. I might still persist with Head & Shoulders shampoo purely for the reason that when I was a kid it was drilled into me that it was the best for dandruff. So, even in adult life, my instinct is to stick with the Head & Shoulders. I haven't really analyzed that too much (mainly because that would make me appear insane!) However, Martin Scorsese, if he were a shampoo, is a sure sign of quality, in that every scalp he comes across is spot free, right?
Well, The Departed sure is one messy film. One gets the feeling that Scorsese could knock this kind of movie off in his sleep. Yes, we've seen this kind of picture from him before, but watching this a second time, I'd forgotten how confusing this movies was. Scorsese has modeled his remake of the Hong Kong movie Internal Affairs (2002), on his own film exploits. I'm referring here to films like Goodfellas & Casino specifically, where a series of interchanging flowing scenes tell the story. So from the off, The Departed feels like something we have come across before, but tellingly, minus the narrator of those previous pictures. So what The Departed mostly resembles, is the sound of Martin Scorsese's voice blasting at you at a million miles an hour. Yes, when you hear Marty talk, you're entertained, it's informative but sometimes you miss the odd line. That's The Departed.
Of course, this doesn't preclude you from having some violent fun. Jack Nicholson, Ray Winstone, Leonardo DiCaprio all give first rate turns. Mark Wahlberg has the best lines and role as a foul mouthed cop. Their are lots of twists in the plot and dodgy Irish accents. It's refreshing to have a film made in Boston. But DiCaprio violently attacking some mob guys in a convenience store is Scorsese referencing his own pictures, De Niro in this case in Taxi Driver. But the nonchalance of such violence is now redundant, as we've seen it before, it doesn't carry the same shock or danger. It just is. Scorsese increasingly makes exercises in genre pictures, yes, sometimes based on his own genres. Scorsese has passed into that cultural realm where every picture is beyond criticism. He's the Bob Dylan of the movies. But where's the soul. I long for the quirk Marty. Again, I'm longing for nostalgia.
I like the idea of a good cop. When a police car passes me by or a couple of officers stroll around a festival site in their blue overalls, others feel hateful and suspicious but I feel safe. I still hold on to the (childish?) notion that there are common rules for everyone which are based on morality and therefore should be obeyed. And the cops can help you if someone strays to the wrong side.
OK, to be totally honest I am also aware of the ignorance and racism ingrained in the profession – when my brown-eyed boyfriend is stopped for his ID in the middle of Punavuori for no other reason than some global war on terrorism or something, I'm not totally trusting these guys and the purity of their judgment.
Internal and symmetrical contradictions. That is what The Departed presents. Leonardo DeCaprio plays the cop who knows internally what is right but is willing to go to extreme measures to get the bad guys. He infiltrates the Irish mob in Boston and loses his police status and then his life in the quest for some kind of truth and revelation of the bad and evil intent. Matt Damon plays the mob head's adopted son who becomes a police man because the mob needs their own guy inside the organization. He rises fast into high positions using his place only for the good of his true boss, Jack Nicholson.
The mirroring of these two positions could be very fruitful in the film, but unfortunately Scorsese builds up promisingly and then just descends into killing everybody. So the opposition between good and bad is rendered futile, as I guess everything is here in life if we assume that death is emptiness.
I cannot believe that Scorsese won an Oscar for this one and failed to win for Mean Streets, Raging Bull, Taxi Driver, Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore or New York, New York.