With The Departed Scorsese has return to more familiar ground and has done what he knows best. A story of battle between the gangsters and the police has offered him the opportunity to create an intense film with style, music and intriguing pictures. Based on a script that begins well and ends up as a disappointment Scorsese managed to prove that he is indeed a great director but failed to create a masterpiece.
It is a pity that a promising script ends up a flop. Still the picture has a lot to offer. For one thing great performances. More important though is that in this film you can still understand why Scorsese is considered to be an important director. He takes the interesting ideas and he translates into interesting pictures. Intriguing pictures both intellectually and aesthetically. He presents the paranoia of modern times creating characters edgy, crazy and scenes clear cruel violent. His rhythm is fast and intense. You go through the film with suspense and apprehension. There is intensity in every second and nothing is redundant
Moreover he manages to capture some astonishing performances form his actors. As usually Nicholson is chilling as a paranoid dangerous man. To tell the truth he is more or less stereotypical in roles like this. Matt Damon does also an excellent job. Leonardo DiCaprio has a difficult but really challenging and advantageous role to play. As the under cover cap he plays a man who is always on the edge. He is afraid of being discovered, and being killed. He is forced to kill and commit atrocious acts that both attract and repel him. And most important of all he is afraid that he has lost his identity that no one will ever no who he really is. On the edge and always on the verge of breaking down and going crazy or killing somebody Leonardo DiCaprio manages to give an astonishing performance.
The script contains some intriguing ideas. Two graduates of the police Academy start their career going into the complete different directions. Matt Damon is his superior’s favorite boy. He seems to work hard doing all the right moves. He rents the nice apartment he finds a girlfriend and settles down and he ascends fast. We soon find out however that he is a double agent as he actually works for the head figure (Jack Nicholson) of the gangsters. On the other hand Leonard DiCaprio as soon as he is out the academy he is attacked by his superiors and driven to work undercover. He goes to jail and eventually he hooks up with the head gangster Jack Nicholson. The two men are presented as the opposite sides of the same coin. Both the criminals and the policemen are represented as similar and equal. It seems that only chance and circumstances has made the one group legal and “good” and the other illegal and “evil”. An idea that is emphasized by Nicholson’s little speech in the begging in the film. He says: than in this neighborhood you can either be a cop or criminal, but when you find yourself in front of the gun what difference does it make. The point is that both groups for their own reasons are capable of extreme violence, are capable of killing. As both Leonardo DiCaprio and Mat Damon are pressed by their real employs to find each other out Scorsese emphasizes the fact that one is the counter of the other. Same and different both containing the dark and light elements they chase each other and both fall in love with the same woman. So far the good ideas of the script are fully developed and Scorsese manages to use them well. As the film moves one those intriguing ideas seem to get lost and the film slips to exaggeration, over sentimentality and a supposedly ironic comment ends up as a cliché. As the pressure on both heroes builds up the delicate balance starts to unravel and the killings begin. One by one all of the central characters of the film die. The gangster Nicholson is killed by his own employee-cup. The supervisor of Leonardo DiCaprio is murdered in conflict. Then Leonard DiCaprio himself is killed and then even Mat Damon is discovered and killed. The last image of the film is a rat on a balcony right in front of the illustrious building of the police academy. All in all the conclusion is rather known to us all: even the good guys are not so good any more. They are corrupted and violent as the other side. In the end the film looses the spectator’s faith in it. Over exaggeration and endless meaningless killing brings all the intriguing ideas of the film o a big of nothing.