bottom line on top: watch it. this review is likely to have more spoilers than usual. “consider yourselves… WARNED!” – public enemy track one off “it takes a nation of millions to hold us back”
it’s said that when a door closes a window opens, such is the idea of the film. the film’s title refers to those who have “passed;” the departed. with each death a new window opens, alliances shift, characters are revealed, people ascend and fall with equal ease. the film begins with nicholson, a gangster, collecting a payment from a local business. we are introduced to matt damon as a young boy, ogling nicholson while he strong arms the business man and hits on the under age girl who runs the register. damon, we gather, lacks a father and lives with his grandmother. this first introduction of a departed person is one in a line of many whose absence weighs heavily on those the story follows. nicholson brings up damon goodfellas/ray liotta style and thus a gangster is born. but damon doesn’t go the way of liotta in goodfellas, rather he’s a mole in the state police. meanwhile, dicaprio is his foil. a boy with a dirty family, but he wants to make good. the state police, though, know his character smacks more of a criminal than that of a white bread cop. thus they (sheen and wahlberg) use him as their version of donnie brasco.
the characters are as compelling as anything else within the film. the story, too, is top notch. the direction, though perfectly capable and at times quite good, isn’t as good here as it was in the aviator. this, and the fact that the departed is more a boston film, rather than a new york, film, are the reasons that an academy award with this film would be somewhat bittersweet. scorsese’s use of music here isn’t as good as it was in the casino, but it’s worthy of mention and better than most.
dicaprio and farmiga were the most compelling characters for me, but it’s really subjective. every major character has a duality and depth that make them compelling in some way. dicaprio has, for me, officially cleansed himself of the pretty boy persona he had following the titanic. the guy’s a serious actor who has found a good mentor in scorsese. i’m glad he has chosen to go the route of gilbert grape and this boy’s life, rather than becoming a pretty boy. he’s been putting together quite an impressive collection of performances lately.
the film’s ending is appropriate yet surprising and moving. these are the best kind – the ones that belong, but are still somehow unexpected. B+. it’ll be an A- the next time i see it.
“i’ve always thought you should treat the feds like you treat mushrooms: keep them in the dark and feed them plenty of shit.”Watched in theater