Cinema Mishmash

A personal and random look at movies, past and present

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The Departed

October 8th, 2006 · 1 Comment

If Martin Scorsese’s films share a directorial style, it could be called anti-style. Perhaps a better term is restraint. The ideal film score is often described as one you don’t consciously hear, and I think that description could be given to all the elements of the best Scorsese pictures. Unless you are consciously looking for camera movement, framing, editing, sound, and all of the non-acting crafts that many lesser filmmakers consciously accentuate, you likely won’t notice them at work in a film like The Departed. Likewise, if the actors are performing well, are correctly cast, and have been given a good script, the degree to which the final product should be credited to the director is often difficult to perceive. Perhaps that is why Scorses has produced some of the most heralded films of the past three decades, yet he has never won an Academy Award.

You should really try my ophthalmologist.Although awards season is a long way off, I hope the excitement and critical praise surrounding The Departed pays off for Scorcese, his actors, and his crew. I can’t call this a great film, but it is a very, very good one, one which seemed to really connect with the audience in this evening’s sold-out oversized multiplex theater. There were collective gasps, sighs, and laughs (both the appropriate and the nervous kind) that make the cinema experience like no other. It is no wonder the film will likely be the box office top for its opening weekend. The cast of The Departed redefines the term “all-star,” with Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Ray Winstone, and Alec Baldwin all at the top of the bill. Each actor is in top form, and has been perfectly cast. Nicholson hardly shares his director’s sense of restraint, but he keeps his immutable tendency to flourish almost within the proportion of his role as a mob boss sociopath.

Don't make me wash your mouth out with soap!The Departed is an adaptation of an excellent 2002 Hong Kong film, Infernal Affairs, and the basic storyline is identical to the original: an undercover cop who has infiltrated the mob and a mob mole in the police department try to uncover each other’s identity. While I am generally skeptical of English-language remakes of high-quality foreign films, I must admit that Scorsese and his screenwriter, William Monahan, have improved the story by adding a few character details and allowing certain characters, most notably Wahlberg’s Sgt. Dignam and Baldwin’s Sgt. Ellerby, to deliver exceptionally clever and biting dialog. Unfortunately, the new script also contains the unforgivable sin of screenwriting: needless exposition. Scorsese should trust his ability to show, rather than tell, and he should trust the audience to be able to imagine a character’s background and motivations without being spoon-fed. The film drags for a while about two-thirds of the way through, and without the unnecessary exposition could have been considerably shorter. However, once the pace picks up for the film’s surprisingly brutal finale, and the tangled web of deception ensnares its last prey, the achievements in the film far surpass its flaws.

Tags: Action/Adventure · Crime/Noir · Director · Drama · Ensemble

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 John // Oct 30, 2006 at 5:06 pm

    David, Thanks for re-instating the mishmash – the best film blog on my “Favorites” bar. Keep up the good work. John

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