Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Departed

The Departed (Martin Scorsese, 2006) [9]
Sure, this doesn't rank up there with Raging Bull or Goodfellas in terms of a crowning work of cinematic achievement, but after the relative bore of his last two films, Scorsese returns with something close to what I expect out of a Martin Scorsese picture. This is his best work since Goodfellas, and it sources the same material of that film but plays it differently. This seems more like a pure work of entertainment, and while I never like film purely as entertainment, I have to say this was one enjoyable film to watch. The film has all the filmic trademarks of a Scorsese picture: the kinetic violence, fast-paced editing, and great choice of a rock and roll soundtrack. If a film has that, it's going to be hard for me to not like it.

For the film itself, William Monahan's screenplay crackles with sharp dialogue and definitely has a keen grasp of Boston, all the way down to the institutionalized racism of the (mostly) Irish Catholic citizens. Both Monahan and Scorsese do a great job of handling the interwoven stories of the two "rats" so that it doesn't become muddled. The most interesting feature of the film is the duplicity of the Damon and DiCaprio characters, how they both exist on the same level of being, yet still manage to remain distinct individuals. They have the same task, they have the same admiration of their superiors, and they even manage to be romantically involved with the same woman. For all its action and suspense, the film really hinges on the credibility of these two characters being practically one in the same. For all the tricks Scorsese pulled out of the bag for this one, it never clouds that issue.

That being said, all the tricks Scorsese uses are better than what 98% of all other directors would have done with the material. Some credit has Thelma Schoonmaker, Scorsese's long time editor, for reigning in what could have been overly excessive, most notably Nicholson's character. There are times when you can sense Jack's doing his Jack routine, but it never manages to spoil the film. Also, the Vera Famiga character doesn't come across with same conviction as the male characters, which isn't that surprising seeing that Scorsese's films excel in a male universe. Even with that being said, The Departed is definitely a contender for my best of '06. It's not quite vintage Scorsese, but anything close is still pretty good.

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