Review: The Departed

Basic plot: Two rats – one a cop working undercover (DiCaprio) and the other a cop working for the ‘mob’ – go head to head, trying to find the identity of the other before he is discovered.

A sign of true artistry is the indelible, distinct mark the artist imprints on a piece of work. It is the thing that separates a Monet from a Renoir, even though both are Impressionists. That indefinable quality that may be imitated, but recognized as an imitation of, or the style of said artist.

Going in blind has its merits; halfway through The Departed, Gangs of New York popped in my head for some reason. And, lo and behold, a quick Net search reveals that it is a Martin Scorsese film.

The Departed very much shows the hand of Scorsese. The piecemeal fashioning of a story, of bits strung together to form a coherent whole. The slickness that coats the grit of the story. The former, that piecemeal fashion, has the advantage of keeping up suspense. What is going to happen next? Which rat will find which first? Then, there is Leonardo DiCaprio. Oh, how I love the man. As Billy Costigan, he’s the perfect alpha male, with ‘vulnerabilities’. The one who whacks the baddies, but makes lurve to a woman. Did you detect a note of sarcasm there? You would be right. And so, we come to the second part – my gripe with the Scorsese style. There is a layer of construction in the movie that makes it so difficult to connect with the story. They had me with Billy Costigan, I wanted him to live, to win. But by the time that is resolved, I mostly wanted to care. Perhaps it is not the Scorsese style. Perhaps it is the curse of Disneyfication – or Hollywoodization, if you prefer.

Potential spoilers ahead:

Or perhaps I am just disgruntled with the ending – I want my romance novel ending with the hero riding off into the sunset with the heroine (or riding the heroine in the sunset). Okay, so that did not happen – but is it too much to ask for the package Costigan gave said love interest to have a significance? Any would be good. Apparently not. I do not like senseless deaths as endings when it serves no narrative purpose. Bang, bang. Dead, dead. The villain wins. I don’t mind villains winning, I just want them to win for good reason.  Instead, I got the feeling the villain won simply because the hero should not in a Scorsese film. Because that would be too cliched, right? In trying to escape a cliched ending, I think The Departed managed to have one.

Oh. And there is some subtext about identities, and being undercover/playing a role and losing the sense of self. Yawn.

Oh well. I should watch Once upon a time in Mumbai again instead.

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About A. Faris

A. Faris spent her formative years at libraries and scribbling odd tales that somehow always end up romantic. She writes in between running after her son.
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