Departed (The)
R3 - Hong Kong - Mega Star
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak and David Cormack (21st May 2007).
The Film

It's easy to see why people were falling over themselves to compliment Martin Scorsese's "The Departed", it's got all the trademarks of a great Scorsese film: gangsters, wrong side of the tracks, head to head battle of wills, minds and bodies, death, guns, drama, action, excitement; but for some reason it just doesn't quite scale the heights of say "Goodfellas" (1990), or "Raging Bull" (1980) or even "The King of Comedy" (1983).
The film is set in Boston and details the child to policeman rise of Matt Damon's Colin and Leonardo DiCaprio's Billy. The earlier a rat for Jack Nicholson's Costello's gang and the latter a good egg from a rotten family acting as a rat for the police in Costello's gang. Sound confusing? It's not.
The film is supposed to be about the cat and mouse that goes on between Billy and Colin as they both try to find out who the rat is but this plot is complicated by the 'outer' characters within the film.
I use the term outer hesitantly, as characters being played by Martin Sheen, Jack Nicholson and Alec Baldwin can hardly be called outer, but that presented a problem to me as a viewer. How can I focus on the main story when there are so many dangling threads in front of me?
Bizarrely, might I add, the star for me was Mark Wahlberg, he's come a long way since those CK advertisements and his character had the best lines and the best presence of them all.
The film (as in all Scorsese films) does not lack for pacing but despite this, the 2 ½ hours it takes to sit through does seem to drag in places. We see Damon on the phone to Nicholson, we see DiCaprio on the phone to Sheen, we see phones here, phones there, phones EVERYwhere. The phone deserved an Oscar Nomination just for screen time.
A lot has been made of the acting performances, and to be fair, some are outstanding. I've seen both "Blood Diamond" (2006) and "The Departed", and DiCaprio was exceptional in both, aside from "Titanic" (1997), the boy has put in some terrific performances and I feel it's a matter of when not if he picks up his first Academy Award. Matt Damon was, well he was Matt Damon, he's always solid without being flashy. Jack Nicholson was a ham. Jack Nicholson is a ham, in just about every movie you see him in he over-acts hugely. Just about the only film I can think of where he displayed even a modicum of restraint was in "As Good as it Gets" (1997) and he got an Oscar for it! I still love Jack. He's the epitome of cool isn't he? And since being disappointed at his failed attempts to win in "Batman" (1989) I've been waiting for him to play a gang leader (if I just ruined "Batman" for you, shut up, it was released in 1989).
Martin Sheen has unfortunately played himself into a corner by being President Josiah Bartlett on "The West Wing" (1999-2006) because every time I see him in a role where he's not the President, it just seems wrong. Here he's quite the active old fella which was even more disconcerting as I don't recall seeing him run once as President.
The film follows all of Scorsese's trademark directorial flourishes, opens with a flashback to introduce the characters, has long tracking shots, and fast cuts etc. etc. it all just feels like it's becoming a bit formulaic for him. It would be great to see him break out and do a romantic comedy, or a costume drama, just to really test out his mettle as a director.
All in all it's a good film, not a great film but a good one. Scorsese does deserve an Oscar, but not for this.

Video

Presented in the film's original theatrical ratio of 2.35:1 this anamorphic widescreen transfer is a brilliant effort. To make room for the full bit rate sound featured on this release the film was split over the two discs. Although this is a rather frustrating to have to change discs to continue watching the film the result of having enough room on each side has given us a near immaculate transfer. The image is pristine and sharp; detail is beautifully rendered especially in backgrounds. Colors are accurate and deep with natural skin tones and finally lacks are bold. I spotted no major problems with this transfer by way of dirt or anything compression related. Once you get past the fact this film is split over two discs you'll fall in love with this reference quality image.

Audio

Audio is presented here in two varieties, the first being in English DTS-ES 6.1 Discrete which is full bit rate and the second being in English Dolby Digital 5.1 EX surround. For the purposes of this review I chose to view the film with its DTS-ES surround track and compared to the Dolby Digital it's much more dynamic and displays a depth normally reserved for uncompressed sound. The dialogue is clear and distortion free but the truly impressive nature of the track comes from the film's score which blares through the sound space with a rich and ambient quality. Furthermore effects sounds such as environmental surrounds appear natural and add depth to each scene, gun shots also come off punchy and with an aggressive force behind it. The track is as rich as they come totally immersing the viewer in this film and can most certainly be considered being reference quality.
Optional subtitles are also included in English, Traditional Chinese and Simplified Chinese.

Extras

All of the extras are housed on the second disc.

First up we have the "HBO First Look - The Departed: Facing a Loaded Gun" featurette which runs for 13 minutes, this is a standard EPK clip which has been made for TV. It's a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film as the cast and crew tell us what the film is about, their characters and motivations as well as how amazing it was working with Scorsese.

Next is "The Departed: The Inspiration" featurette which runs for 23 minutes 1 second. This is basically the same as the previous clip only 10 minutes longer and it even includes some of the same interviews seen in the previous clip. This can be considered an extended EPK, which focuses on Scorsese, on how the director works and the depiction of Boston in the film among other things.

A series of three interviews follows and they are with:
- Matt Damon which runs for 3 minutes 43 seconds.
- Leonardo DiCaprio which runs for 5 minutes 1 second.
- Mark Wahlberg which runs for 2 minutes 56 seconds.

These interviews are taken from a press junket as a journalist asks the actors various questions about the film, having seen the original Hong Kong version, researching the characters, working with each other and a director like Scorsese, other topics covered include the violence and getting into the 'moment' while filming among other things. These clip can be viewed individually or also with a 'play all' function.

Also on the disc is some B-roll footage which runs for 16 minutes, this is rough behind-the-scenes footage shot on the set and locations during the filming, it includes the cast and crew shooting various scenes from the film. It's very much fly-on-the-wall type footage and sometimes it's hard to make out what people are saying. It could have benefited with some sort of commentary.

A collection of three theatrical trailers is next and they run for 2 minutes 25 seconds, 2 minutes and finally the third which runs for 59 seconds.

Rounding out the extras are a series of three TV spots, the first two run for 33 seconds while the last runs for 30 seconds.

Packaging

This DVD is packaged in a 2-disc amaray case that is housed in a cardboard slip-case.

Overall

The Film: B Video: A+ Audio: A+ Extras: C+ Overall: B+

 


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