Martin Scorsese is one of those directors who likes to cast the same leading man in many of his movies. For instance, between 1973 and 1995, Scorsese made eight films with actor Robert De Niro, including "Mean Streets," "Taxi Driver," "Cape Fear," and "Casino."
Since the 1990s, Scorsese has worked five times with actor/muse Leonardo DiCaprio, starting with "Gangs of New York" and, most recently, in 2013's "The Wolf of Wall Street."
For their third collaboration, Scorsese directed DiCaprio in another of the Italian-American filmmaker's examinations of crime and corruption, this time set in Boston, Massachusetts instead of Scorsese's native New York City.
Written by William Monahan ("Body of Lies," "Kingdom of Heaven") and based on the original "Infernal Affairs" script by Alan Mak and Felix Chong, "The Departed" stars Jack Nicholson as an aging but wily mobster named Frank Costello.
Costello (loosely based on the notorious Whitey Bulger) is a menacing yet seductive gangster who early in the film recruits 12-year-old Colin Sullivan (Conor Donovan) into his circle of criminals. (Costello is shaking down a grocery store owner and hitting on the poor guy's daughter as Colin watches in fascination.)
Years later, a now grown-up Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) joins the Massachusetts State Police. On the outside, he projects a squeaky-clean exterior of the ideal state trooper as he aces all his exams and is assigned to the Special Investigations Unit, the unit assigned to investigate organized crime.
In reality, Sullivan is Costello's trusted mole inside the SIU. This allows the mobster to stay one step ahead of SIU heads Capt. Queegan (Martin Sheen) and Staff Sergeant Dignam (Mark Wahlberg) and their investigations into his criminal enterprises.
But Queegan and Dignam know that SIU has been compromised and recruit Billy Costigan (DiCaprio), a police academy recruit with family connections to Boston mobs. They convince Costigan to play the part of a cop gone bad, go to prison, and ingratiate himself with Costello's outfit.
Costigan agrees, and after establishing his bona fides as a former police officer with a criminal record, insinuates himself into Costello's crew of mobsters. Costigan then participates in various criminal activities, all the while keeping his eyes and ears open to identify Costello's mole in the SIU.
My Take: Although I have seen two of the Scorsese-DiCaprio films in theaters ("The Aviator," "Shutter Island"), "The Departed" is the only one that I have added to my video library. Cops-versus-mobsters is not a genre that I explore too often, but I heard enough raves about The Departed to get my interest piqued.
For me, the big draw is the stellar cast. In addition to Nicholson, DiCaprio, Damon, Sheen, and Wahlberg, "The Departed" features fine performances by Alec Baldwin, Ray Winstone, and Vera Farmiga. Whether they're playing cops, gangsters, or their hangers-on/lovers, Scorsese's actors are windows to the good and bad sides of human nature.
"The Departed" is also a well-made suspense thriller. The two main antagonists, Costigan and Sullivan, are under a great deal of internal pressure while playing their deceitful game. Costigan, the kid who wants to do good, must commit crimes in order to gain Costello's trust.
Sullivan, too, has to play a mirror role to Costigan. To be an effective mole for Costello, Colin has to do his job as a law enforcement agent in order to get promoted and access into SIU's investigations.
Even Colin's lover, police psychiatrist Madolyn Madden (Farmiga) has secrets of her own once she meets Billy Costigan, who has to see her as part of his probation. Billy and Madolyn begin a clandestine sexual relationship, thus creating another layer of deceit.
As good as "The Departed" is, it may not be appealing to all viewers. The dialogue is laced with the F-bomb and a plethora of other expletives. It is also, unsurprisingly, a violent story full of betrayals, setups, stings, and murders.
"The Departed" Blu-ray Edition
Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (PCM), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
Dubbed: French, Spanish
Region: All Regions
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Number of discs: 1
Rated: R (Restricted)
Studio: Warner Home Video
DVD Release Date: February 13, 2007
Run Time: 152 minutes