Hold onto your Cannoli, because Martin Scorsese’s The Departed is one thrilling cat-and-mouse crime saga. This 2006 Best Picture winner transplants Hong Kong’s Infernal Affairs to Boston, following young cop Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) going undercover to infiltrate Irish mob boss Frank Costello’s (Jack Nicholson) inner circle. The only problem? Costello also has his own man, Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon), rising up the police ranks. Cue escalating suspense and trademark Scorsese style.
Scorsese and longtime collaborator Thelma Schoonmaker immediately submerge us in gritty South Boston through sharp editing and bravura visuals, from sweeping aerial views to gritty street-level shots. The propulsive classic rock soundtrack keeps the energy amped up. And the outstanding cast clearly relish Scorsese’s profane, rapid-fire dialogue. This world feels tactile and lived-in.
Of course, DiCaprio internalizes pain and simmering intensity asBilly, while Matt Damon oozes smug charm as Colin. This marks some of their finest work. And Jack Nicholson deserved his Oscar nom going big and brash as ruthless kingpin Costello. The psychological twists and turns are divvied up beautifully among the stellar ensemble. It’s a masterclass in acting and tension.
I won’t spoil the spoiler-filled narrative, but William Monahan’s script satisfyingly winds an intricate cat-and-mouse web. Loyalties get murky, paranoia and violence escalate, and fake-outs abound. Twists land hard thanks to fully realized characters and visceral stakes. And it all concludes with trademark Scorsese violence and iconography, including a haunting final shot.
Is The Departed just Scorsese doing a victory lap, regurgitating old themes of crime and loyalty? At times perhaps, but the intricate plotting keeps you invested. No one directs masculine ego and Catholic guilt like Marty. And the Hong Kong transplant allows welcome fresh stylistic and thematic nuances compared to his past mob films. It stands on its own.
Upon release, The Departed finally earned Scorsese a long-overdue Oscar for Best Director. And in the 15 years since, its reputation has only grown. Let Scorsese guide you through the thrilling, labyrinthine Boston underworld. Come for the riveting performances, stay for the auteur’s masterful technical execution. An instant modern crime classic.
So strap in for some bloody good fun with The Departed. DiCaprio and Damon at the top of their game alone make it worth the watch. But Scorsese’s virtuoso direction elevates a crackling remake into one of his finest late-period achievements. No matter which side you’re on, you lose yourself in character-driven high stakes. Now take a cue from Nicholson – “grab your cannoli and go enjoy!”