The Departed (2006)



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The Departed is a Martin Scorsese directed adaptation of Infernal Affairs. Infernal Affairs was written and set in Hong Kong. The story revolves around two cops that are moles or rats as the movie would prefer, between the Boston branch of the state police department and the local mob. Since Scorsese put his name on the project it was easy to attract all the Boston based leading men in 2006.

Leonardo DiCaprio is Billy, the good cop who is a rat inside the mob. Matt Damon, Colin, is the bad cop who is the rat for the mob inside the Boston branch of the state police. Jack Nicholson, Frank, is the mob boss. Mark Wahlberg is the deputy director of undercover police, who reports to Martin Sheen. Alec Baldwin is the head of the branch. Anthony Anderson is the only black cop and has a tiny role. Vera Farmiga is the only woman with meaningful dialog. It is not a diverse cast.

One of the first lines of the movie involves Frank using the n-word slur for black people. It is a bit shocking to hear right off the bat. It becomes even more puzzling when the only black person you see for the rest of the movie is Anthony Anderson and he never interacts with Frank. The movie makes it clear that all of Boston is very racist.

If pointless racism is not your cup of tea, how about the objectification of women? Vera Farmiga plays Madolyn, an MD Ph.D. psychiatrist. With letters like that, you would expect her to be smart and great at her job but, she is not. She develops a romantic relationship with both Colin and Billy, who she meets with professionally. She recklessly hands out benzos to her patients to placate them without giving them proper instructions or follow-ups on progress. After sleeping with both patients, she gets pregnant but never reveals who the father is. Women are free to do whatever they want, but for the single female character in this movie to be so easily swooned by barely high school graduate cops is disappointing.

The movie has a lot of violence that goes over the line into gratuitous for me. Scorsese manages to capture all the violence very cinematically but, his time could have been used more effectively elsewhere. There is a big reveal around Frank mid-movie that makes no sense and will have you questioning police at all levels. Colin seems to be a known associate of Frank’s since the age of ten, yet it never comes up during his police training. You would think that an organized crime unit would have seen Colin cross paths with Frank at some point and not hire him.

The closing shot of the movie features a rat. The word rat is tossed around constantly throughout the movie. Subtlety is nowhere to be found in this film. I think it also paints Boston in a pretty bad light. Everyone is racist, rude, angry, and unable to process their own emotions. I have not spent enough time in Boston, but I assume there is a spectrum of people and not just a bunch of jerks.

I think Martin Scorsese is a bit overrated for some of his movies. When his name is attached to a project, it brings a certain cache, but it is not always lived up to. I do not think The Departed has aged particularly well. The total lack of female characters was not great in 2006 and is not great in 2020. The plot felt a bit boring with way too many coincidences. Good police work would have put Frank behind bars or unearthed Colin. The movie made sure to tie up all the storylines but did so in the easiest way possible. There are better crime dramas with more diverse casts. The Departed is worth a watch once just so you can be up to speed with everyone else who has seen it. If you are revisiting it, I think you will be disappointed.

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©2019 by Sean Whitehurst