The Departed (2006) – Boston’s Finest

In this psychological crime thriller directed by Martin Scorsese and written by William Monahan, we are taken to the streets of Boston with a violent story within the Irish mafia. This urban tale can be seen as a tribute to the gangster film genre.


Illustration by Alice X.Zhang

What happens when an undercover cop (Leonardo DiCaprio) infiltrates Boston’s Irish mob, and a mobster (Matt Damon) infiltrates the Boston Police Department? Everything goes wrong the day the two moles start hunting each other. The two men get caught up in a war between the police and the terrifying Godfather of the Irish mafia, Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson). It is the beginning of a dangerous race against time to discover one’s identity.

Martin Scorsese is at the height of his art with this brilliant thriller, actually a remake of the Hong Kong film Infernal Affair (2002) by Alan Mak and Andrew Lau. For The Departed, William Monahan won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay which Martin Scorsese managed to adapt to the particular atmosphere of his crime films. He used South Boston for scenery, where his characters evolve in the midst of an Irish-American troubled urban environment. This time the mafia is Irish, less structured than the Italian Goodfellas mob, and relies entirely on Costello’s madness. It was an ingenious idea for the screenwriter to remake the Hong Kong film, while refraining from watching the original, to avoid being overly influenced. He took his inspiration only by reading the script. As a master of the crime thriller genre, Scorsese pays homage to one of his favorite film by hiding an “X” somewhere in the frame whenever someone is killed or when there is talk about a murder, just as Howard Hawks did in the 1932 version of Scarface.

Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson) on their first encounter.

Martin Scorsese cast an amazing crew of actors that bring much credibility to the characters. Jack Nicholson does an incredible performance in the role of a violent psychopath godfather of the Irish mob, which was actually inspired by a famous “Southie” gangster named James J. Bulger. Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio play undercover agents on both sides of the law and their impressive performance makes you wonder if their double lives in the movie could have affected them in their own personal lives. Scorsese had never depicted policemen; however, he does not stay in the usual policemen versus gangsters cliché. Even more so, the notion of criminalization of public service had never been portrayed with such fury. The director used the opposition between two characters to increase the intensity and underline the gap between them; Billy, the violent troubled kid that wants to do good, and Colin, the good reliable kid who in fact scatters death and corruption to defend the interest of organized crime within the police.

In supporting roles, Martin Scorsese had the pleasure of casting Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen and Alec Baldwin. The dialogues are stunning and will stick to your mind for a long period of time.

 Cop or criminal, “when you’re facing a loaded gun, what’s the difference?” 

Sergeant Sean Dignam (Mark Walhberg)

Furthermore, the movie has great cinematography enhancing breathtaking suspense scenes, and the outbreak will simply baffle you. It’s an enjoyable stream of increasing violence, harshly depicted, with no regard for sensitivity. It is hard to accumulate so much tension in a motion picture. The way the storyline switches from one environment to another makes the movie almost schizophrenic. Faithful to his habits, Martin Scorsese does not take a manichaean approach in that story and doesn’t impose any sort of moral judgment. He skillfully plays with the thin line between good and evil in his characters, and there are so many parallels and reversed situations that in the end you can’t know who is good and who is bad. The soundtrack by the Dropkick Murphys, an American Celtic punk band, takes the spectator on a journey into the hardcore world of criminals. Yet again, Scorsese proves with The Departed that he is one of the best directors alive by making the movie almost a Shakespearean drama. This film will not give you a minute to catch your breath, so sit back and enjoy a great moment of cinema.


Leonardo DiCaprio: Costigan Jr

Matt Damon: Sergeant Colin Sullivan

Jack Nicholson: Francis « Frank » Costello

Mark Wahlberg: Sergeant Sean Dignam

Martin Sheen: Captain Oliver Charles Queenan

Ray Winstone: Arnold « Mr. French » French

Vera Farmiga: police psychologist

Anthony Anderson: Brown

Alec Baldwin: captain George Ellerby

Kevin Corrigan: Sean, cousin of William Costigan

James Badge Dale: Barrigan

David Patrick O’Hara: Fitzy

Mark Rolston: Delahunt

John Cenatiempo: Mark Brambilla

Armen Garo: Eugene Fratti

Robert Wahlberg: FBI Special Agent Frank Lazio

Kristen Dalton: Gwen Costello

Cast Director : Martin Scorsese

Screenplay: William Monahan

Running Time: 150 minutes

Produced By: Brad Pitt, Brad Grey, Graham King

Music by: Howard Shore

Cinematography: Michael Balhaus

Edited by: Thelma Schoonmaker

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