Martin Scorsese is an American legend. A visionary artist born in Queens, New York, he has made many of the greatest films of the late 20th century. His 2006 film The Departed is another stroke of genius, and while not as revolutionary as his own Goodfellas or Taxi Driver, The Departed is still one of the greatest movies of the decade in its own right. Telling a story of crime, betrayal, lies and deceit, Scorsese directs with a patient understanding of crime cinema, isolating his film from others and giving it the unique Scorsese touch.
The film opens with a narration by Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson) over videos of Boston, showing the history of violence and crime the city has faced for years, and played to the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter”. This voice-over sets the tone for the film, and introduces us to Costello’s dark character. In a scene that would feel right at home alongside other Scorsese classics, Frank Costello enters a diner and pays for a young boy named Colin Sullivan’s groceries. As the local crime lord, Costello recruits Sullivan and we hear his lessons to the boy on a man’s choices in life, about the church, about crime, and about loyalty. “When I was your age, they used to say ‘you could become cops, or criminals’. What I’m sayin’ to you is this: when you’re facing a loaded gun- what’s the difference?”
Sullivan and Costigan then become a part of a relationship neither of them are even aware of. Costello becomes aware of a rat in his crew, and the police hire Sullivan to find the mole in the special investigations unit. As the two men work to discover each other, they spin around and round in a web of deceit until a final confrontation. Ironically, the two men are also both romantically involved with the same psychologist (Vera Farmiga).
Martin Scorsese directs with such mastery over his craft, and The Departed is certainly no different. His selection of shots, his attention to the actors and to there expressions and emotionality, allow the performances to be elevated and the themes of the film to be carried across far better. The contrasting characters of Sullivan and Costigan are unique, as they each live lives which are opposite to their inner being. This is different than other protagonists of Scorsese films, yet at the same time is similar. While Henry Hill or Sam Rothstein both pursue lives in crime to explore who they are, the characters of The Departed follow opposite tracks through their lives. However, both Costigan and Sullivan experience the anxiety and inner conflict that is commonplace in a Scorsese picture.