Scorsese's latest film brutally honest
Martin Scorsese's "The Departed," is a brutal, misogynistic film with a bevy of trash-talking, chronically hostile characters from beginning to end. It is the dark side of the moon, mayhem in a dank alley on a rainy night, and a chilling glimpse into a culture of men which, if even remotely accurate, gives pause.
Nothing about the movie is studied or reflective, let alone compassionate &
with the exception of one Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson), who dispenses street-smart homilies like a wandering Samurai. Ironically, Costello is also the mob don, a lethally charming psychopath who cuts down anyone who is perceived as being even a speed bump on his corrupt roadway.
As the violence escalates, as men are ruthlessly shot and maimed, it's fair to ask: to what end? And here is where it gets strange. There is something vital and engaging about this film. It's harrowing and visceral, and the audience is never released from the shoulder clenching grip of the narrative until the last frame. In great part the movie is compelling because the plot is constructed on a precipice. How it will conclude is never hinted at &
not a glimmer of foreshadowing. It's a runaway train entering a tunnel.
Scorsese is a director that has never allowed plot to compete on a level playing field with his exploration of character. But in the case of "The Departed" he takes complex, interesting (if abhorrent) people and lets them respond to events that are stretched to an unyielding tautness. And woven into this hard-edged story is the theme of isolation. Every character in this film is ultimately alone. No exceptions. Loyalty, honor &
love, even &
account for nothing and are as expendable as are the thugs. There is a nihilism that runs through this film (and much of Scorsese's work), an existential denial of all moral principles. It's as if Scorsese says: this is the truth of our postmodern existence &
face it if you can.
"The Departed" has a deep bench of actors and their portrayals are, to the person, delivered with perfect pitch. Nicholson is an actor who can transform himself. Recall his restrained, mousy performance in "About Schmidt." As Frank Costello he plays a man who is most at home in the darkest corners of the human heart. Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio deliver excellent performances as two young men who long ago have been swept away by life's circumstances. Actually, "The Departed" is marked by superb acting, down to the most tangential character.
Martin Scorsese's contribution to film over the years has been astonishing. Consider "Raging Bull," "Goodfellas", "The Aviator," and "Casino." "The Departed" is another example of the depth and breadth of his talent as a filmmaker and a return of Scorsese to those mean streets that he knows so well. Of course, mention should be made of Michael Ballhaus, the cinematographer. This film is beautifully shot and edited.