Departed (The)
R4 - Australia - Warner Home Video
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak and David Cormack (18th April 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 Di Caprio'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 hours it takes to sit through does seem to drag in places. We see Damon on the phone to Nicholson, we see Di Caprio 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 Di Caprio 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 another excellent effort from Warner Brothers. The image is sharp and beautifully detailed; the image is crisp and shows no sign of damage. The clean image is also complimented with the fact the film gets almost the entire first disc to stretch out, therefore there are no compression problems. Colors are all deep and accurate with skin tones appearing natural and balanced. Blacks were bold and displayed no noise with shadow detail remaining consistent throughout. This is another terrific effort for one of 2006's most popular films.

Audio

This film includes a single English Dolby Digital 5.1 track, while the Hong Kong release delivered a fantastic DTS track this Dolby Digital number is just as good. Complimenting the strong visuals is this dynamic and immersive surround effort. Dialogue comes out clear and distortion free, environmental surrounds are subtle yet effective with excellent use of rear speakers. The track gets aggressive when required especially with gun shots sounding natural and very real, the cherry on top is the punchy music that blares out in harmony throughout the sound space. Overall this is an impressive sound experience.
Optional subtitles are included in both English and English for the hearing impaired.

Extras

DISC ONE:

Aside from the main feature itself the only extra you'll find on this disc is the film's original theatrical trailer which runs for 2 minutes 20 seconds.

DISC TWO:

The second disc is where the majority of the extras are included starting off with the featurette entitled "Stranger Than Fiction: The True Story Of Whitey Bulger, Southie and The Departed" which runs for 21 minutes 7 seconds. This is a look at the real life gangster Whitey Bulger, his rise and influence in South Boston, a look at his crime legacy and his ultimate demise (Bulger is in fact still on the run from authorities and currently holds the #2 spot on the FBI's most wanted list). The clip goes in-depth into the parallels between the character of Costello in "The Departed" to Bulger. The filmmakers discuss the importance of personalising the story for Scorsese so that it's not just a straight remake of the Hong Kong film it's adapted from "Infernal Affairs" (2002). It also delves into the intricacies of South Boston, growing up there and the overwhelming sense of family, neighbourhood and crime as the filmmakers and cast take us through the research process and getting things right.

"Crossing Criminal Cultures" is next and is a featurette that runs for 24 minutes 3 seconds, this takes a look at the Scorsese gangster epic. From his childhood in Little Italy growing up amongst the wise guys to his early cinematic influences from the old Warner Brother's gangster films to the films that launched his career and continued to impress. Scorsese comments on the references he made to those classic films in "The Departed". The clip also looks at his impact on American cinema especially with the gangster films in which he portrays his subjects in an authentic unglamorous approach, and also looks at the evolution of the gangster epic from the 1940's to today and the violence and language among other things.

Rounding out the extras are 9 additional scenes with introductions by director Martin Scorsese. These scenes are presented in a reel that plays for 18 minutes 37 seconds, this includes the intros in which Scorsese comments on the scenes, where they appear in the film and why they were removed. The scenes included are: "Colin and Ballistics Instructor" in this scene Colin is in class learning about exit wounds from 9mm rounds, "Billy and Drill Instructor" is a scene where Billy enters into a minor altercation with the Drill Instructor at training camp. "Flashback : Billy's Father" is a scene that show's Billy's Father's relationship with Costello. "Billy Smokes and Thinks" is a scene where Billy is thinking about whether he should go undercover. "Ellerby Press Conference" is a scene where Captain Ellerby takes credit for the capture of Jimmy Pappas. "Ellerby Questions Colin" is a scene where the Captain asks Colin how much progress he's made in capturing Costello. "Billy at Shoreline" is a scene before his near confrontation with Colin in the alley, Queenan calls him telling him to follow the envelope. "Delahunt and Billy" this is an extended version of the scene where Delahunt does and shares information with Billy that he knows he's the rat. And finally "Colin Debriefed about Costello" Colin explains his actions about shooting Costello.

Overall the extras are well produced and certainly possess repeat viewing value however I am disappointed in the fact that the excellent 80 minute documentary entitled "Scorsese On Scorsese" which is seen on the US region 1 release has been omitted from this edition. I see no reason why that extra can't be included.

Overall

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

 


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