MINI-REVIEW: "The Departed"

I’ve now seen “The Departed” twice since it came out last Friday, and I’ve been struggling to figure out how to approach reviewing it. Or, rather, how to review it in greater depth than simply telling you the basic truth: That’s it’s one of the best, if not THE best, major movie of the year and that you should absolutely go right out and see it.

Outside of that, I find that the film defies my ability to construct a useful review by way of it’s stripped-down, unpretentious edge: It doesn’t aim to turn it’s story or character arcs into larger symbols, it attaches no “greater” issues or themes to it’s central plot other than eternal quandries of loyalty, honor, etc. And while, as usual, one could write a dozen reviews just relating director Martin Scorsese’s skill at building tension and constructing a scene… here the best examples would only be spoiled by description.

Briefly: The film is a loose remake of Hong Kong’s “Infernal Affairs,” here relocated to Boston. Leonardo DiCaprio is a state trooper drafted as a deep-cover mole into the local Irish mafia, while Matt Damon is another trooper who’s been drafted as the Irish mafia’s mole into the police department. At the center of both men’s lives, to varying degrees, are Vera Farmiga as a psychiatrist unknowingly treating both men, Martin Sheen, Mark Whalberg and Alec Baldwin as the police superiors and Jack Nicholson as Luciferian mobster Frank Costello.

The cast is, across the board, excellent. Scorsese finally wrings the excellent performance out of DiCaprio that he’s been promising us for two movies now, Damon is fine as a self-satisfied heel, Sheen and Baldwin serve notice that they do remember how act with greatness after all, Farmiga holds her own in the difficult position of being the film’s lone strong female voice, and Whalberg has probably never been better in a role that at first seems extraneous and soon proves anything but simply because the character is so enjoyable to watch.

Anything more… honestly, I can’t and shouldn’t say. Let it be enough that you need to see this, even if your not a fan of the genre, the maker or anyone in it. It’s a good movie, simple as that.

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