The Departed took the Academy Award for Best Motion Picture of the Year back in February, and it won Martin Scorsese his first Oscar, for Best Achievement in Directing. I love Scorsese’s movies, and I love Jack Nicholson, who stars as mob boss Francis “Frank” Costello.
The movie also stars Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio as young graduates of the Massachusetts State Police Academy, Martin Sheen, Mark Wahlberg, and Alec Baldwin as department higher-ups, and Vera Farmiga as the girl, a psychiatrist who treats the cops.
I had not seen Vera Farmiga before. She has an attractive and interesting presence. Damon and DiCaprio turn in decent performances, although it is sometimes a little difficult to distinguish one from the other. Sheen and Baldwin are both solid, and Wahlberg is fine.
Jack Nicholson, however, is outstanding. There’s one scene here at a table in a nearly-empty restaurant that leaves his crazy face seared into your brain forever. That moment is, by itself, reason enough to watch this movie. Nicholson overrides all negatives — even the sometimes bad Boston accents, the film’s annoying obsession with cell phones, and the inclusion of an awful rendition of “Comfortably Numb” by Van Morrison in the soundtrack’s rushed parade of gritty classic rock.
The Departed is a remake of Infernal Affairs, a 2002 Hong Kong thriller which I have not seen, but which may account for all the damned cell phones. I will not give away any plot details. I’ll just marvel at the way the story, like a house of cards being constructed in front of your eyes, carefully balances element against element while the tension builds and you hold your breath anticipating the inevitable collapse.
When the whole structure finally does come crashing down, it’s fast and messy. I did not feel all the loose ends were tied up quite as well as they might have been, and because of this, I can’t bring myself to rank this one with my other five-star Netflix titles. It came very close, though. It’s been a while since Amy and I have been this entertained by a movie.
(The Departed is rated R for strong brutal violence, pervasive language, some strong sexual content and drug material.)