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Film Club is an idea that I have been toying with for a while now. Originally it was a feature I was going to do on my own where once a month I would try to dissect a film, whether it be a renowned classic or something more modern. After a while though, I thought this was a feature best suited to multiple reviews, from various perspectives.  With that I emailed a few fellow bloggers who were more than willing to get on board with the idea and help me out, and Film Club was born.

The rules of Film Club are:

1st Rule: You do not talk about Film Club.

2nd Rule: Ignore rule number 1, because I want everyone to talk about Film Club as much as possible.

3rd Rule: We don’t review cinema releases, as not everyone is always able to get to the cinema in time.

4th Rule: If the film is part of a franchise, then we must start with the first in series, i.e. we can’t review Terminator 2 before reviewing The Terminator.

5th Rule: We each take it in turns to pick a film for us all to review, and state our reasons why we picked it.

6th Rule: A score out of ten must be given to help form a general consensus on each film.

7th Rule: Each reviews can be no longer than 600 words.

8th Rule: No major spoilers allowed.

This month the excellent HC Movie Reviews chose our film for us, and he went with the modern crime classic, The Departed. Below are HC’s reasons for picking The Departed followed by his review of the Scorsese classic.

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I chose The Departed for a few reasons, the main one being that it has sat on my ‘to watch’ shelf for far too long. Its long running time never does itself any favours when I am trying to pick a movie to watch. I also picked it because I am a big fan of most of the cast and as Martin Scorsese directed this film I was hoping it would be a real masterpiece.

Review

The Departed has everything going for it; undercover cops, moles in the police department, Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon! What more do you want? One of my favourite genres of film has to be undercover cop movies, they are just too good! These films really allow for constant tension throughout as the undercover character is always at risk of being found out. However, The Departed manages to magnify this tension two-fold, it does this by also having a mole in the police department. So throughout the film I was constantly on edge and willing characters to make the right decisions. As I have already mentioned, both DiCaprio (the undercover cop) and Damon (the mole in the police department) feature in this film. I am already a massive fan of both actors so naturally I really enjoyed their performances. Although on top of this I was really impressed, as they really developed the characters that they were playing. I believed both of them in their undercover roles, they were so convincing. This only added to the brilliance of the plot as it helped me to identify with those characters who were trying to figure out who the rats were.

Jack Nicholson plays the mob leader, Frank Costello. This was the only character who I wasn’t so keen on. Costello seemed to be more eccentric millionaire than vicious mob leader, at times he was definitely away with it. Although I think this was just another element to the character. Nicholson was able to portray this side of Costello brilliantly. However it was when it came to the more serious side of his character that I noticed the flaws in Nicholson’s performance.  I just didn’t think he was mean enough, I wasn’t convinced with his so-called reputation that he had in the film. The other side of his personality always seemed to dominate. This however was only a very minor flaw, as I really did enjoy this movie but I have to admit that it was noticeable.

The Departed did not play out the way I was expecting it too, I am so glad it didn’t though as it played out fairly uninteresting in my head. What was instead produced was a surprising, shocking and captivating story. It was a story that could have ended so many different ways and this was most definitely an advantage.  The film never became boring and the performances from the lead actors kept up with the pace of the plot enhancing it so much. This was also helped by the inclusion of a great soundtrack and especially the use of the song ‘I’m Shipping up To Boston’ by The Dropkick Murphy’s, this was a clever addition to the film adding to the already Irish theme that was present in the movie.  The films long running time (151 minutes) was never an issue, I always find this impressive and a must for any quality film. If I am constantly checking the time which is often the case and usually for films a lot shorter than this one then I haven’t been properly drawn in. I will admit that I did check the time on a few occasions whilst watching The Departed but that was only to hope that I had longer left of the film that I actually did.

There is much to this film I would love to discuss here however as we have vowed not to indulge in major spoilers here at Film Club you will just have to watch the film yourself and get stuck into the rich plot. After you watch the film you can research it as I did and find out several themes and motifs that Scorsese has running through the film, these end up being really nice touches and will contribute well to future viewings.

Rating: 9.5/10

What About The Twinkie?:

Martin Scorsese has a habit of making great films, and he continued that habit with The Departed.

The film centres around Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon’s characters as they both play informants for opposite sides of the law in one of the most dangerous games of cat and mouse ever.

DiCaprio’s Billy Costigan is a cop who infiltrates Frank Costello’s (Jack Nicholson) gang and attempts to bring him down from the inside. Costigan suffers deeply for this, as he slowly loses control of his world as the lines begin to blur for him. The only two people who know what Costigan is really up to are Police Chief Queenan (Martin Sheen) and Detective Dignam (Mark Wahlberg) who attempt to keep Costigan’s head straight as he slowly loses his mind.

Matt Damon’s Colin Sullivan on the other hand is the rat in the police department who is really working for Costello. There is a clear class difference between Sullivan and Costigan here. As Sullivan appears to have it all, a great apartment, a nice girl and the confidence that he can infiltrate the Boston State Police and work right under their noses. While Costigan has no family left and has no real links to the outside world other than Queenan and the foul-mouthed Dignam.

The interesting thing for me about The Departed is the way Scorsese tells both sides of the story here. His previous gangster efforts have focused on just that, the gangsters, but this time he takes us into the world of the police as well. It’s fascinating to see how both sides of the law operate and the constant game of one upmanship as they attempt to nail the other.

I still believe this is DiCaprio’s finest performance yet. He plays Costigan with a toughness and a vulnerability that others may struggle to portray. His eventual meltdown is worthy of any award. DiCaprio is assisted by an excellent cast, Nicholson is allowed to go OTT as gang leader Costello, while his second in command Mr. French (Ray Winstone) channels his inner tough guy but needs some work on his American accent. Wahlberg and Sheen are excellent as they attempt to keep Costigan safe while undercover. Wahlberg is particularly good as the quick mouthed Dignam, and along with Alec Baldwin the two come close to stealing any scene they are in.

In a film full of Alpha males there needed to be a strong female performance in there and Vera Farmiga is excellent as the shrink who is dating Damon’s Sullivan, while at the same time having to assess DiCaprio’s Costigan.

The Departed is an excellent film. One that tells a tale of crime on both sides of the law, and shows how destructive living a double life can be.

Rating: 9/10

The Sporadic Chronicle of a Beginner Blogger:

Well, here we are and I am reviewing The Departed once again. I have absolutely no issues with this, and anyone who knows me knows that I am a massive fan of this film.

I love Leonardo DiCaprio, and I love Scorsese, so this was something I just adored. The Departed was just a collection of some excellent choices, what with the exceptional casting and the camera work, a solid plot and great performances, it could not do anything but work. I enjoy Matt Damon a lot, and it was thrilling to see him stacked up opposite DiCaprio, what with both of them hunting the other and having no idea of that. The soundtrack for this movie is also something I really enjoyed. The story for me was also extremely compelling. It was well-written and very sharp. The characters had depth, which was cool. Looking at DiCaprio, you can distinctly see how Costigan’s hopes and dreams are dashed, and how a small assignment soon becomes his life, and it is damn dangerous, forever lurking, threatening to take over completely. He is constantly terrified of being discovered, and DiCaprio balances out Costigan’s fear and his anger, as well as how he needs to maintain his cool and go with it. Matt Damon was all smooth and suave as Sullivan, calm, cool, collected, and unquestioningly loyal to Nicholson’s Costello. The two have a rather intricate relationship, and very good chemistry with one another to carry that. Nicholson was a great villain here, and I enjoyed him every moment he was on-screen.

The tension is presented with flair in The Departed, and you are at the edge of your seat for the duration of it. I absolutely love how your loyalty shifts throughout the film – you want to see what Costello and Sullivan get up to, but on the other hand you really, truly just want to see Costigan, Queenan, and Dignam succeed in finally taking the Irish mob down from the highest echelons, though they know someone will surely step back in and pick up the slack, but it will take time to get everything running as smoothly again. I can wax lyrical about this movie; honestly, it is a masterpiece, something that never gets old for me, and a wonderful example of top-notch film making.

Rating: 9/10

The Oracle of Film:

The Departed is widely known as one of the great Martin Scorsese films. In fact, when it comes to gangster movies, The Departed is a pretty safe bet at one of the best ones out there, if you like the slower more intelligent approach to the genre. It doesn’t focus too much on the actual mob (Nicholson plays a cardboard cut-out mob baddy , which is one of the main reasons he is allowed to have so much fun as the villainous Costello). Instead it focuses on the police officers charged with capturing him, in particular Costello’s inside man and Leonardo DiCaprio’s mole in Costello’s organisation , so deep undercover he is losing touch with his own identity.

The key difference between this and other Scorsese’s is that it is an ensemble piece, rather than his usual trick of giving one actor the material for a stand-out performance and, in return, asking that actor to carry the entire film (Wolf of Wall Street, Raging Bull). Leonardo Di Caprio might be the main character here, but if he is taken from a scene (or arguably the entire movie), there are plenty of reasons to stick around. Matt Damon’s story arc is just as interesting and the supporting cast inject everything they’ve got into their performances, including some stand-out work from Wahlberg and Baldwin. There is so much here to recommend, especially when it comes to the gut-wrenching ending. While Scorsese plays it too quick for me to truly enjoy, the ending will be appreciated for changing everything we thought we knew about thrillers and leaving us reeling from the last few scenes. Very recommendable.

Rating: 8/10

Movie Rob:

What can be said about an amazing movie like The Departed?

Director Martin Scorsese was able to take the great concept of Infernal Affairs (2002) adapt it to a modern-day Bostonian gangster setting and create an even better movie while leaving some of the best scenes and ideas completely intact.

I’m not the biggest fan of Scorsese’s films, but I think that this was one of his best achievements.

He carefully chose an amazing cast including Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Alec Baldwin, Vera Farmiga and the always excellent Jack Nicholson (in one of his final performances to date) and created a gripping and compelling cat and mouse thriller that takes the viewers on so many twists and turns that if you stop paying attention for even a minute, you might miss crucial information.

This is one of the best ‘cops and robbers’ movies because both sides are presented so well that you don’t know who to really root for.

Many people couldn’t understand why Scorsese never won an Oscar for Best Director before this movie, but being that I think it’s his best work, I believe it was worth the wait.

This IMHO, is definitely one of the most deserving Best Picture winners of the decade. Looking at the list of winners, it’s clear to see why:

Gladiator, A Beautiful Mind, Chicago, LOTR – Return of the King, Million Dollar Baby, Crash, The Departed, No Country for Old Men, Slumdog Millionaire and The Hurt Locker.

The standouts here for most deserving are LOTR and The Departed.  All of the others trumped stronger pictures.

Rating: 9/10

The Narrator:

In Martin Scorsese’s modern mobster classic The Departed, one of cinema’s most vicious games of cat and mouse (Or should I say rat), plays out in Boston, with a gleeful cast chomping at the bit to chew their screen-time. Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Martin Sheen, Mark Wahlberg, Alec Baldwin, yes, this cast may be the greatest Scorsese has ever assembled, and they all deliver their A-game, particularly the great Jack Nicholson, who clearly relished the opportunity to play the borderline psychotic Frank Costello. The story plays out at a blistering pace, most notably through the breezy seventeen-minute prologue which grounds you instantly in this kill or be killed environment where only the strongest survive.

This film appears to carry a label which states: “The one that won Scorsese an apology Oscar”.  The fact that Scorsese missed out on a golden statue for Raging Bull at the expense of Ordinary People, is an offense that many critics have lambasted the Academy for over the years and as a result, The Departed’s victory represents an award for his life’s achievements more so than the film itself. Although it certainly can be argued that many of Scorsese’s astonishing back catalogue are considerably better than The Departed, you can take nothing away from the quality that is to be found within this Boston bloodbath.

Despite being placed in the same bracket as Mean Streets, Goodfellas, and Casino, this must be considered a departure of sorts for Scorsese. Sure, there are nods to Warner Brother gangster classics such as Public Enemy, and White Heat to be seen, but the infamous glamour found in his previous films is noticeably absent from this picture as neither the police, nor the mob are portrayed in a favourable light. Instead, it is up to the viewer to decide whose side they are on, but as events spiral out of control and any code of moral ethics dismissed by both sides, one is left to contemplate just how convoluted any person can become under the influence of greed, loyalty, and pride.

One thing that must be said about this film is that it may require more than one watch to fully grasp the intricate movement and behaviour of each individual character. As the lines become blurred between right and wrong, you may be forgiven for falling behind and ultimately being left baffled by its no holds barred conclusion. It is also one for watching in your own company, or with those whom you feel comfortable with as the relentless barrage of strong language and other crude behaviour may be a bit much for more casual viewers.

Overall, I believe The Departed remains a worthy Best Picture winner and should rightly be celebrated as Scorsese’s best offering since the turn of the millennium. The only reason to mark it down would be due to knowing that it is not quite as great as some of Scorsese’s best, but as a singular cinematic experience, you would do well to find better. If you are yet to view it, seek it out now.

Rating: 10/10

Films and Things:

Matt Damon and Mark Wahlberg in the same film? Aren’t they, like, the same person?

The Departed is one of those films I’d heard about countless times but never really felt the compulsion to watch. Despite an absolutely amazing cast, it had never held much appeal and I don’t tend to be drawn to crime/thriller types. There’s no reason for such an aversion aside from crime talk going straight over my head and boggling my little mind.

Aside from confusing the hell out of me, The Departed is a very entertaining watch. It has a killer soundtrack and a cast to die for, with Jack Nicholson at his absolute finest (in acting skills, not looks of course * shudders *). Even the supporting parts are brilliantly cast with Vera Farmiga playing the film’s love interest and Alec Baldwin appearing every so often as some kind of police chief type person (did I mention that crime thrillers go right over my head?)

While it is, for many reasons no doubt, a fantastic piece of cinema, there was neither enough humour nor romance to keep me interested. I don’t really agree with gender stereotypes, particularly with film, but I definitely think The Departed is more a guy’s film.

It’s quite a long film but by no means does it drag; the action is pretty much constant from the start. Do I have a clue what the hell happened? No. Did I enjoy it? Well…sort of. There’s so much swearing that it becomes tiresome, and that’s coming from someone who swears like a sailor on a daily basis. When it gets to the point where every other word is ‘fuck’ you do have to wonder if the scriptwriter was somewhat lacking in their writing ability. After all, they do say that profanity is a sign of a limited vocabulary. Whatever the reason, the coarse language becomes very abrasive.

You probably have to enjoy crime thrillers to really ‘get’ The Departed. It’s fast paced, has a fantastic cast and there’s no denying it’s a brilliant film. But it’s definitely not for everybody.

Rating: 6/10

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Overall rating: 9/10

General consensus: The Departed is a modern crime classic that forgoes the glitz and glamour of Scorsese’s earlier gangster offerings, for a more real and unrelenting look at the life of those who make a living from crime and those who attempt to stop it. However, The Departed is not necessarily a film for everyone, and the level of violence and bad language along with a running time of nearly two and a half hours can be off-putting for some.

 

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