Monday, October 09, 2006

Movie Review : The Departed.

[Note : This review might give away a few details of the movie, but not too many that you will notice, or will hurt your viewing pleasure! :)]

Martin Scorsese's "The Departed" (IMDB entry) has all the makings of a cult classic. It has a great director in Scorsese and a class act in Jack Nicholson. Anyone can guess that this movie would be something to remember about.
While most folks would focus on Scorsese and Nicholson, I would like to talk about Leonardo DiCaprio (Billy Costigan) and Matt Damon (Colin Sullivan). To say the least, they were spectacular ! And not in an over-the-top way...but in a very subdued, sensible way...I think they stole the show from the likes of Jack Nicholson, Alec Baldwin and even Martin Sheen! Before this movie, I would have had trouble putting the names of DiCaprio or Damon in the same sentence with any of these stalwarts...

Not that DiCaprio and Damon have shown a lack of talent...don't believe me? Check out The Man in the Iron Mask, Catch Me If You Can, Good Will Hunting, Dogma, and of course The Talented Mr. Ripley. It's just that Jack Nicholson, Alec Baldwin and Martin Sheen each are legends in their own right and one can only gape in amazement when you are fortunate enough to see all of them in the same movie.

The Damon/DiCaprio combination just yanks the carpet out from beneath you, especially since you are not expecting it. There's a subdued on-screen competition between the two...not just between the characters they portray, but between the two actors...of course, you say, the story is about two infiltrators -- one in the police department leaking secrets to an Irish mob boss, while the other one is a cop trying to bring down the mob from within. But here's the best part -- for a large part of the movie, they don't know that they're competing! And even before they find out...one realizes that you're watching two very good actors portraying characters with vast undercurrents and that they're being manipulated by two masters -- Jack Nicholson, and to a more subtler but stronger extent, Martin Scorsese.

As I mentioned, there're variations of the competition between the two even before they know of each other's existence...for instance, one is working on taking down Jack Nicholson's (Frank Costello) character and the other is working against the cops to help Costello. But an even more interesting, unknown, rivalry is for the the character played by Vera Farmigia (that of police psychiatrist Madolyn). Both men vie for her and she has to make the choice between the two, and all the while they have no idea who the other person in her life it, and even if there is one.

But when the two, almost simultaneously, become aware of each other's presence, the rivalry heats up, as both realise that the other's success is one's downfall -- not just from the graces of their peers and superiors, but fall from life itself! And then the two characters go into overdrive to find the other's identity, which brings out some of the most intense scenes in cinema. There is one scene where Damon calls DiCaprio using the cell phone of the dead Martin Sheen character. This is the first time in the movie when the two have a chance to literally face off, but the beauty of the scene - not a single word or sound is exchanged! You can see the wheels whirring in their heads, you can feel the desperation, fear and apprehension just jump off the screen, and yet, complete silence!

The hands of the artist, viz. Scorsese, are not evident throughout the movie, and that is what makes it special...he takes in shots and situations in a manner that doesn't show his presence behind the scenes, while being able to still get subtle messages across -- a case in point being a shot of the Boston senate house through the windows of Damon's appartment...on the window screen a rat scuttles across...underscoring the point that the movie is about two rats ("informers", for the uninitiated)!

Watch out for some other surprises from the hands of Martin Scorsese. He is capable of drawing sympathy for the unabashed bad guy (the snitch that is Matt Damon's character)! There is no pretense for drawing in the sympathy...one feels that he is just doing his job, that of infiltrating the police force, just as the cop that is DiCaprio's character is doing his job by infiltrating the mob.

Scorsese also seems to make the city of Boston a character in its own right...it blends in and stand out at the same time...it shapes the paths and scenarios that the various characters play in. The shots of the city are surreal at times.

Of course, one actor who would have really taken away from the main storyline, and the two characters, if he was given longer screen presence is Mark Wahlberg as Dignam. As it is, DiCaprio, Damon and Wahlberg are the ones that remain in your head as you walk out of the movie hall...

1 comment:

Perspective Inc. said...

I loved the movie and I think everyone acted brilliantly but for Vera Farmigia...she just didn't cut it... but the movie made for a great watch!