Monday, October 30, 2006

The Departed (Particle Man)

***DISCLAIMER: This movie is not for the faint of heart, the overly sensitive, or the excessively innocent. Don’t get me wrong. These are not bad things to be; quite the opposite, actually. But if you are these things, be smart enough to avoid this movie. After all, it’s possible to be innocent without being naïve. Basically, there are two groups of people: people who are innocent, and people who can enjoy this movie.

Actually, that’s not entirely true, since I myself straddle those groups, falling somewhere near the exact middle of the two. I don’t like conflict, or I at least like my conflict confined to the silver screen where I don’t have to get involved. Consequentially, I don’t like fighting, guns, killing, or mobsters. But an important distinction needs to be made: I wouldn’t enjoy being a mobster, but I do enjoy watching them. The Departed really went for a long time being a good movie, then there was this one sequence where there was so much death, so much bad, so much ick, and that lasted basically till the end of the movie. That sequence was enough to put me off at first, but as time passed and I looked at the movie for the entire movie (not just that sequence), I really came to realize that I enjoyed it very much.

Scorsese has made a decent movie here, but more than that, he has made a statement. The statement, which I agree with in some situations and not in others, is that there is little difference between the people trying to hurt our society and the people trying to protect it. Cops pose as criminals and criminals pose as cops, but in the end, are the two really that divergent? Yes and no, as this film brought out for me. First, there is Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio), who is striving with all his might to travel a distance of about two inches. He makes all this effort and does all this work, and he’s not even sure what he’s fighting for. He’s an undercover agent under assignment in the mob syndicate that Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson) leads. Billy’s the only essentially good character in the film, but he senses that the longer he remains in this cesspool of murder and corruption, the further he will get from his good character, and the harder it will be to get back. Simultaneously, there is Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon), a kid who has found Frank Costello’s favor and has spent most of his young adult life infiltrating the Boston Police Department for Costello. He smiles, winks, cajoles, and gradually climbs up the ladder, never forgetting his original mission. And then there is a psychiatrist played by Vera Farmiga, who ties the two together.

Scorsese’s films tend to be pretty uneven, though The Departed is a lot better in that department than the hopeless (but still great) Gangs of New York. But like that movie, it is more than redeemed by the absolutely stellar performances in it. The Departed is simply bursting with star power. In addition to Jack, Leo and Matt, there is also Alec Baldwin, Martin Sheen, and Mark Wahlberg. DiCaprio turns in a brilliant performance, but that doesn’t surprise me at all. I have simply loved him in everything I’ve seen him in since What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? Damon’s crooked cop was completely convincing, from the accent on down. I must admit that I was doubtful that Nicholson could have really pulled off a mob boss, but I shouldn’t have been. Who can play evil better than Jack? And Baldwin and Wahlberg were simply side-splitting, especially when they bounced off each other. Baldwin especially made the absolute most out of relatively little screen time. Wahlberg sometimes tipped the scales of believability with his vulgarity, but he played a role that fit him like a glove.

I understand that some people will not like this movie because it contains too much ick, and that’s fine. But what you have to do to get anything out of this movie is realize that it’s a mobster movie. A certain amount of blood, guts, swearing, and bad behavior is a prerequisite. A mobster movie where everyone spoke calmly, worked out they’re differences peacefully, and parted with a hug and a “may God bless your path” would be completely unrealistic, and therefore not nearly as good of a movie-going experience. One needs to put oneself in the mode of the movie to even enjoy it a little bit. If that’s not your bag, so be it; just avoid this movie all-together. If you can, enjoy it. If not… well, Happy Feet is coming out next month.

Iconic lines (or exchanges):
“The Patriot Act! The Patriot Act! I love the Patriot Act!”

Ellerby: “Go f*** yourself.”
: “I'm tired from f***ing your wife.”
: “How is your mother?”
: “Good, she's tired from f***ing my father.”

“You can be a cop, or you can be a criminal; but when you’re facing a loaded gun, what’s the difference?”

22 Rating: 9

Particle Man

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