Ruthless gangsters, corrupt cops, severed limbs, bloody handguns, salad bowls full of cocaine and Leonardo DiCaprio: Yes, it’s Martin Scorsese’s latest masterpiece, The Departed.
DiCaprio plays Billy Costigan, an undercover state trooper who has infiltrated a South Boston crime syndicate headed by the notorious Frank Costello (a gleefully show-stealing Jack Nicholson). Matt Damon is Colin Sullivan, Costello’s prot?eg?e since youth and an informer for the mob posing as an upstanding member of the state police force working under Officer Ellerby (Alec Baldwin). Their paradoxical double identities become increasingly intertwined when both Costello and Ellerby come to suspect that they have a rat in their ranks. The result is two and a half hours of intense, edge-of-your-seat action.
Nicholson strikes an interesting balance with his mobster alter ego, masterfully translating Costello’s diabolical nature while still somehow remaining likable to the audience. This could in part be due to the actor’s charisma beyond the silver screen, and it was mostly the older generations in the crowd who seemed especially taken with him.
DiCaprio and Damon compliment each other’s performances brilliantly. DiCaprio is convincing as the underprivileged, morally sound policeman looking to reverse his family’s longstanding affiliation with crime in Boston. He adds dimension to a difficult character by allowing the audience to see the tortured, lonely soul behind the rugged, solid exterior. Damon is also compelling as Sullivan, the corrupt but clever detective who knows just what strings to pull and when, so that his double identity is never revealed.
Scorsese employs a strong supporting cast including Mark Wahlberg and Alec Baldwin, who deliver humorous performances as higher-ups in the police department. He takes an incredibly complex script and sets it into an unsettling world where the good guys are the bad guys, and nothing is quite as it seems.
The audience is left with a disconcerted, disturbed feeling as the relentless violence yields to the realization that this world of secrecy and betrayal is ultimately indifferent to who lives and who dies. The film is brilliantly directed and performed, and certainly a must-see, though the faint of heart might choose the lighter Man of the Year.