Leonardo DiCaprio and director Martin Scorsese always seem to make a great combo. Add Matt Damon, and Jack Nicholson and you’ve got yourself an enjoyable, though a bit predictable, gritty urban thriller.
In the 2006 film The Departed, Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Collin Sullivan (Matt Damon) are opposite characters, one being an undercover cop attempting to penetrate a dangerous gang, the other a criminal protégé, feeding the gang leader information about the cops. The gang leader is the violent and a bit quirky Costello, played by Jack Nicholson.
This film focuses on the balance between Costigan and Sullivan. The scenes continuously cross-cut between the two men’s lives, comparing the current happenings. There’s a clever scene in which Costigan talks on the phone, and the scene quickly cuts to Sullivan on the phone, but each man is talking to a different person. The two Bostonian characters represent the different paths that a man can take, and offer a perfect counterbalance. They even fall for the same woman, which is the only place in which the films overwhelming coincidences go from paralleling the two characters to a bit unbelievable.
Nicholson takes on one of his scariest roles in this film. His character doesn’t just like violence, he IS violence. It is second nature to him. He laughs after he shoots a woman because “she fell funny”. There are a few scenes where his hands are covered in blood. This isn’t a campy villain that causes chuckles from the audience, like the Joker. Costello is terrifying because he legitimately enjoys crime and all the violence and gore that comes with it.
Although the film has interesting characters and an intense story, it’s nothing new or groundbreaking. The cat-and-mouse plotline has been done before. The viewers find themselves wondering how nobody has caught the rat on either side. The only woman in the film is used to drive a love triangle. I, personally, was expecting more from the second-half. Not that it wasn’t enjoyable, it certainly had its tension-filled moments. But in the end, it felt a tad predictable.
This film by no means “blows the house down”. It is however, a well-edited and well-told story. The dialogue is quick and divulges much of the plot, proving that the screenplay was well-written. There are moments at which the audience is on the edge of their seats. DiCaprio displays his brilliant acting skills using his eyes to illustrate his character’s rage and desperation. Damon portrays a man torn between the way he was raised and the woman he loves. Nicholson proves himself a worthy villain.
Scorsese makes a film that has its downsides, but all in all is worth watching.