Re-Viewing – The Departed

This whole week has been a week of re-watching films. After watching the newest episodes of Game of Thrones four times over, I guess I finally decided to move on.

When The Departed came out in 2006, I was a very skeptical viewer. I was on the forefront of foreign films at that point in time and had been a HUGE fan of the 2002 movie The Departed was based on, Infernal Affairs.

Infernal Affairs was a standout in a time of drought for Hong Kong cinema. Two of China’s top stars, Tony Leung and Andy Lau were at the top of their game. They were and still are the equivalent of Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon. Both have had tremendous careers and for the filmies out there, loved the world over. In Infernal Affairs, both were escalated to new heights and that film pushed a whole new genre of films in Hong Kong. The old school martial arts movies were finally pushed aside for more modern police stories. The plot was fairly identical to The Departed, the mafia puts it’s recruits through police training, the police send their own guys into the underworld, undercover.

The visuals were stunning, the story was fast paced. The movie was an hour shorter than the remake.

I was a bit jaded going into the Departed. This was a film based on a game changing film that I adored, and I never felt it could be done justice.

Having had some time and space in between now, I sat through the film last night without those rose colored glasses. I enjoyed the film. The story itself is still fantastic. And Martin Scorsese does a number to make it his own.

I’m still a little skittish of the Good-Fellas-esque opening. It feels like Scorsese was trying to recapture something or pander to an audience that has been aching for something at the same level as Goodfellas. The Departed is no Goodfellas.

Side by side, the opening police academy scenes are similar to the original, as they would almost have to be to set the landscape for the film. From there, screenwriter William Monahan and director Scorsese run with the ball. Setting up the Boston scene well and pushing us deep into the underbelly is done gracefully, with Nicholson leading the charge. It was quite an interesting little twist to base the big baddie on a real life baddie and Nicholson does a bang up job of being a nasty, while, still holding on to… I’m Jack Nicholson.

Again, as Leo and Matt begin their separate lives and dichotomy, I am still drawn back to the original which did it much more succinctly and to the point. I do wish Leo’s team of thugs would have gotten more screen time. The character actors there don’t start to grow until very late in the film, and hell, if you’re clocking in at two hours and thirty minutes, you’ve got some great actors out there to play with, give them the field and let them play ball. It could have brought some levity to a rather dark movie.

It takes me a full two hours and thirty minutes to get over Mark Wahlberg’s hair.

Sitting back and watching this film now is rather funny. A mere six years later, and I don’t know if this movie could be made with the same budget. It is a virtual who’s who of up and comers. At one point, my son looks at the screen and says, “Hey, that dude was in Iron Man 3!” Why yes, he was.

A few things about the movie did bother me quite a bit. Green screen being the primary one. I don’t remember noticing it before, but I sure as hell noticed it this time around. I’m not sure what Scorsese’s motivation was for doing SO MUCH green screen. Perhaps his location budget was swallowed up by salaries. It took me out of the film. It irritated me. Why was Martin Sheen’s office not a real office? Why were they standing in front of green screen windows. Hell, I would have preferred glass windows on set with a backdrop behind it. It was so painstakingly glaring me in the face, I couldn’t help but be pulled away. Same goes for Matt Damon’s apartment. We couldn’t find a room with a view somewhere in a real city?

Blood mist headshot effects have grown some since then.

Which brings me to another little issue I had with the movie, in which case a filmmaker’s artistic license should kick in and perhaps shoot the ending a little different than the original source material. In Infernal Affairs, the elevator scene plays out pretty damn similar. Everybody gets shot. Matt Damon gets away, etc. But, in The Departed, Leo had SO MUCH invested into his character, not only was it a shock to have his head blown off on screen, it almost, in my eyes could have been a better movie if he had survived. It would have put an ounce of redemption into a movie that had none. A slight little change, which at the time, yeah, I would have jumped on the “You changed it!” bandwagon, but Leo’s performance called for his redemption and saving grace. He would have gotten the girl, and the baby at the end and been able to begin a new life.


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