#45: The Departed (2006)

When and how did I watch this?

February 23rd, 2017, on a friend’s flash drive.

Had I seen this film already?

Nope, but at the same time, yep.

What did I know about the movie before watching it?

Crime drama film with an all-star cast and, by reputation, a bloody violent movie. This is a cult classic and simultaneously a decorated film.

What do I know about it now?

Last year, I watched Yojimbo, a film about a renegade samurai who stumbles upon a town with a gang rivalry within.  The film was highly memorable, but for the wrong reason; only a few months prior, I watched a film just like it.  In fact, it was precisely the same film, almost shot-for-shot. I learned later that the director of the previous film had borrowed Kurosawa’s content without his permission, resulting in a legal dispute. Leone later justified it. While this instance appears to be blatant plagiarism, The Departed is a legal redo, and possibly a superior one — unfortunately, I’d already seen this film (Infernal Affairs), so the familiarity became somewhat of a distraction.  They’re definitely their own films, but some scenes were borrowed almost verbatim.  And that’s fine, as long as it’s done better — and it is. Damon, DiCaprio, and the dangerously bipolar antagonist(?) in Nicholson are memorable enough, but what makes the movie work is its pacing and scenery.  How many times did my hair stand up in the final hour or so? For most of the film, we feel as trapped as both of the leads, wishing there were some way out of this without making a big mess.  Of course, this is Scorcese, so this isn’t going to be a tidy conclusion.  As is common with crime dramas (at least for me), getting all the names straight is challenging, so a rewatch is probably necessary to properly appreciate this film.  At the least, I can safely give this film the acclaim of being the best of the genre on the IMDb Top 250.

What are some themes in the film?

Betrayal/fidelity, integrity, duty, the role of the law, revenge

Did this affect me personally?

The moment when both of them are on the phone at the same time — I’m pretty sure I was holding my breath. Likewise, some of the interactions between Costigan (DiCaprio) and Costello (Nicholson) made me nearly pee myself.

Why is this ranked #45?

The star power is absolutely insane, along with the Scorcese label and style.  It’s a crime drama, which is a genre seemingly everyone loves except for me. Oh, and the film is spectacular. I read elsewhere that this has been on cable movie channels often since its release, which garners casual popularity.

Did my wife watch/like it?

She did, but she had an unfavorable view on it, generally.

Would I watch it again?

Yes.  I could do without the constant profanity, but I would love to see it again for the sake of more clarity.

Would I recommend it to a friend?

Most big movie fan friends of mine have seen and love this one. If content isn’t a hurdle for you, it’s worth a look.

Does it deserve to be on this list as one of the greatest films of all time?

Certainly, but probably not ranked this high.  The screenplay, superb acting, and the beautiful shots qualify it for a position on the IMDb Top 250 alone, and it’s nudged even higher for making an already fantastic film even better.  I felt the one thing lacking was the subplot with Madolyn, a crucial plot device, but ultimately an underdeveloped motif and a wasted opportunity to flesh out both principals. But, these are semantics.

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