Departed (The) [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - Australia - Warner Home Video
Review written by and copyright: David Cormack & Noor Razzak (30th September 2008).
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 widescreen ratio of 2.40:1 this transfer is another excellent high-definition 1080p 24/fps effort from Warner Brothers. Upon release this disc was an anticipated title and Warner's delivered on the image in spades. The image is sharp and beautifully detailed right down to small background details and textures. I was impressed with the crispness of the transfer, the well rendered colors and deep black levels. Furthermore being a fairly recent release the print shows no sign of damage, dirt or specs. The clean image is also complimented with the fact the film gets almost the entire 50GB disc to stretch out, as a result there are no compression problems. Bottom line is that this is reference quality stuff here, so if you're a HD-phile and love this film, then you won't be disappointed.

Audio

This film includes four audio tracks, an English uncompressed PCM 5.1 track, as well as standard Dolby Digital 5.1 track in English, French and Spanish. And complimenting the strong visuals is this incredibly dynamic, rich and immersive surround effort. If you think the standard 5.1 track is impressive then wait till you hear this. The range reaches further and the mix feels broader as a result. Dialogue comes out clear and distortion free, environmental and ambient surrounds are subtle yet effective with excellent use of rear speakers and most importantly feel natural and never out of place. The track also has its aggressive moments, 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.
Optional subtitles are included in English, English for the hearing impaired, French and Spanish.

Extras

Warner Brothers has released this film with two featurettes, a series of deleted scenes and the film's original theatrical trailer. Below is a closer look at these supplements.

The disc starts 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.

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

Overall

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

 


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