Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Films of Martin Scorsese Vol. 2: The Departed (2006)

This Scorsese revision of the 2002 Hong Kong classic ‘Infernal Affairs’ tells the story of two moles, one an undercover police officer (Leo Dicaprio) who worked his way into the Irish Mafia. The other (Matt Damon) a disciple of notorious crime boss Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson) who has worked his way up the ranks of the Boston Police Department. However things heat up when both sides learn that there is a mole in their group. Now both moles have been assigned to sniff out the other, a task that will inevitably lead to a series of violent, blood shedding events.

Remakes in Hollywood are not rare occurrence. It seems that every other film to come out of the giant movie making machine that is Hollywood has been done before, or is based on a book, play, or game. We have seen remakes of classic Hollywood films, remakes of not-so-classic Hollywood films. Remakes of European films, French films, Asian films. We have even seen remakes of remakes. Hollywood loves their remakes. However every once in a while, among the giant cesspool of Hollywood re-tellings, we see a true master piece. A movie, that even though it may have been done before, harvests enough raw talent, and visionary film making that is stands up on its own without needing the original to be its crutch.

The Departed was one of those.

Martin Scorsese is easily one the world’s greatest film makers (and as you know, my favourite). So when it was originally rumoured that he would be helming a remake of a film like Infernal Affairs. There was very little to be disconcerted with. If anyone would be able to remake such one of the best Triad films ever made, he would be that man. And the man he indeed was. The Departed has it all, great cinematography, a wonderful signature soundtrack of a Scorsese film, and of course a top notch cast, giving us some outstanding acting. Everyone from Jack Nicholson to Anthony Anderson is at the top of their game. It almost appears that the role of Frank Costello was tailor made for Nicholson, he is absolutely wonderful. Martin Sheen is also great as the incredibly likable Oliver Queenan. Alec Baldwin is the very entertaining Ellerby, who shares the bulk of the films comic relief with Mark Wahlberg’s show stealing performance as Dinam. But as good as the supporting cast is, it comes down to weather our two main men, Leonardo Dicaprio and Matt Damon can carry this film, and they certainly do. Both actors truly shine. This was the third of four team-ups between Leonardo Dicaprio and Martin Scorsese. It is as though Robert DeNiro passed the torch to DiCaprio (Though I still eagerly await another pairing between Scorsese and DeNiro).

The films itself works off a lot of the key moments in the Infernal Affairs trilogy. There are many moments in The Departed that fans of the original will easily pick up on. Basically its build of a number of key beats strung together with Scorsese’s own touches. Each scene is recreated, but with his touch. What does that mean?? Well, more violence, more sex, and more language. The arm-cast scene is a good example. In Infernal Affairs we see Eric Tsang pick up and smash Tony Leungs broken arm against a table, shattering his cast. In The Departed, Nicholson does indeed smash DiCaprio's arm against a table, but in this case it takes a few swifts slams before the cast breaks. Then to add to the torture, he proceeds to beat his arm with his own shoe. The Departed does tell the story almost the same, but it does fill in a lot more detail to the story than the original.

Is The Departed better then Infernal Affairs? No, Is Infernal Affairs better then The Departed. Not really. Infernal Affairs is about as good as it gets when it comes to Hong Kong crime thrillers. And the Departed, well it’s about as good as it gets with American crime thrillers. Maybe it’s the story, maybe it’s the directors, or each films stellar casts. Whatever it is, it works extremely well, both times.

-Jeff Wildman

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