Set in Boston, ‘The Departed’ is based on the criminal underworld and the battle between the state police and the Irish mob. The police send Billy Costigan (Leonardo Di Caprio) to work undercover for Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson) in his criminal gang. Costello begins to trust the newcomer and the police find out more and more about how they are working. What the police do not know is that Costello has sent his own mole into the police force in the form of Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon).
‘The Departed’, directed by Martin Scorsese, is one of the more unusual choices for Oscar winner. The typical Oscar winner is a character study which traces a character during a particular event, whereas ‘The Departed’ does not have a main character, but instead shows a series of events revealing some information to the audience, but holding back other information.
It is easily one of the best films of its genre to be made in recent years, and that is largely to do with the clever, twisting, turning plot that really does keep the viewer watching until the very end, and each turn leaves the viewer wanting more.
There is some fine acting to witness in this film as well. Di Caprio who is now really cementing himself as a serious actor is totally convincing in this role, and Matt Damon as his opposite is equally good. I have mentioned Nicholson before. I find he has a tendency to overact in many of his films, and I think that it is in ‘The Departed’ that he is most guilty of doing this. This is a serious film about organised crime, and yet there is something almost comedic about Nicholson’s performance: at times there is very little difference between his character here and as Jack Torrence in ‘The Shining’. There are a few scenes that I feel he almost ruins through this approach.
On a positive note, Mark Wahlberg is surprisingly good in his supporting role as a ruthless and aggressive Sergeant and I feel does manage to control the screen without dominating and really does make good use of any screen time that he is given.
What I like about this film is that despite its length, or maybe because of it, the various plots and sub-plots all get developed fully: nothing is rushed and this means that there are none of the gaping plot holes or incredulous moments that can certainly be found in other films of this genre.
In short, ‘The Departed’ is an exciting violent thriller with some good acting, but it is really the twisting plot with fully developed storylines that makes this film rank firmly towards the middle of the best picture winners.