Two men, with vastly-differing upbringings both work their way through the Boston police academy. One will work for the Boston Police Department as an undercover operative infiltrating the Irish Mob, the other for the Irish mob as a mole in the police department. They both delicately tread the line between criminal and cop, as their lives, and the lives of people around them seem constantly at risk. A remake of the Hong Kong flick Infernal Affairs - albeit a loose one - The Departed marks a startling return to form of one of America's greatest living directors. Told with a typically brisk visual style by a firing-on-all-cylinders Scorsese, it's a tense and overtly aggressive take from the man who mastered the crime genre a long time ago. While DiCaprio won plaudits for his second collaboration with Scorsese in The Aviator, here he truly makes the transition from teen idol to bone fide movie star. His Billy Costigan is a constantly edgy and undeniably heartbreaking character with whom you genuinely empathise, his plight seemingly never-ending. The ying to Costigan's yang is Matt Damon's borderline sociopathic Colin Sullivan, a man seemingly only concerned with what he can gain from a situation, however bleak it may seem. Both actors turn in near-flawless performances, and give the beautifully-written script real depth as they inhabit their complex characters with sizeable dollops of charisma, desperation and an understated serving of smugness. While Nicholson predictably showboats, he does so as only Jack Nicholson can, and delivers a charming and unsettling darkly comic villain who eats up the scenery at every given opportunity. If there could be some (minor) quibbles, one is the unnecessarily (at times) heavy-handed symbolism (the final shot in particular feeling out of place, when the outstanding film preceding it had already rendered it inconsequential). While the ending may leave a bitter taste, the sense of inevitability with which it comes serves only to enhance the undeniably resonating feel of an excellent film.
Story by Mike Sheridan | 09:00 | Friday 9th February 2007 | DVD review
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