The Departed, directed by Martin Scorsese, is a fresh look into the Irish mob, featuring excellent performances from high-up actors like Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, and Leonardo DiCaprio. It follows the life of Billy Costigan, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, a young man from the Bronx who enlists in the police force, partly because of his families history in crime. Two cops, Captain Queenan and Dignam see this while reviewing his file, and force him into a different path: undercover work. Once he completes his task, they’ll trust him to be an officer.
The film starts out similar to Scorsese’s ‘Goodfellas’ in the way it explores how a young boy gets dragged into mob work. A quasi-touching scene, always the moral contradictions in a Scorsese film, where mob-lord Frank Costello buys some groceries for young Sullivan, who will later train to be an officer and work as a rat for Costello. The film slowly focuses primarily on Billy, his mother and father both gone from his life, his mother just recently. Their are certain parallels with his undercover work, like the fact that the rat is dating a woman who is playing around with Billy, and when Billy asks about her boyfriend, we know its the man who is the focus of the entire assignment. The woman, Billy’s psychiatrist Madolyn, played by Vera Farmiga, is a mirror for the characters differences: Billy is rough-edged, young, and cynical; and Sullivan is immoral, hidden, but highly appealing, much like a mobster.
The mystery is taken away from the equation, as we see things from all viewpoints of the characters, but the suspense is not. Through seeing it, Scorsese creates precise details to cover up trails and close getaways. The film was written by William Monahan, who won an Oscar for best screenplay, and deservedly. The Boston-like slang and wisecracking of the cops is timeless, and the nuance in the relationships are perfect, as if each character were real and sat down and wrote their own part. The relationship between the Billy and his cousin, with their impulsive drug-deals, re-establishes the mobs hatred of drugs, as Mr. French, one-rank lower to Frank Costello, tells Billy to fucking stop the drug-deals with his cousin; “I knew your father” he repeatedly says, and says he was a good man, but we never get much information on what his father did, exactly.
The film’s structure, thanks a huge part to Monahan’s screenplay, is worth studying for film students. It’s intricate plot and double crosses makes one think it was trying to break a world record: the most under covers in a movie plot. It’s another seminal entry into the mob genre for the master himself, Martin Scorsese.