After The Departed racked up at the Oscars this past Sunday night (winning for "Best Picture" & "Best Director"), I decided I needed to view this movie. I'm so glad I did.
A fore-warning. The language used in the film is pretty filthy. If you don't have a stomach for that, steer clear. But what struck me even worse was the violence. Not a small amount of blood-splattering scenes. This is a guy who found Passion of the Christ too be a little too much for me on a silver screen. Departed didn't reach that level, but it's not a long way off. But, when you're talking about a mob movie, you expect not a little of both of these.
As I just stated, the plot revolves around the American/Irish Mob in Boston, Mass. The mob boss is played by Jack Nicholson. Superb job. Scorcese originally wanted DeNiro to play this role, but it wouldn't have been the same. DeNiro always appears more reserved & calculated in his roles. Nicholson brings that "Here's Johnny!" & Joker vibe that scares the mess out of you. And that's exactly what his role was meant to do: scare the mess out of you. Nicholson at his best.
If there is anyone who disappointed in this flick, I'd say it was Matt Damon. And it's not really Damon's fault. It's just that his character was written to be more stale & static, and in the movies I've seen him in recently he is also relatively stale & static. And he's surrounded by a group of characters in this story who are all so distinctive & well-played that it's almost like he was setup to fail in a sense. Don't get the wrong impression: he does his job right. He carries the ball & doesn't drop it. But for a guy who is closer to 40 than he is 30, I'm getting a little tired of seeing him in roles where he also plays himself in flashbacks at the age-range of 18-25. It's not that he doesn't pull it off; it's just that this is what he plays in a lot of his movies lately. Still, Damon is on par with DiCaprio: one of those guys who's emerging as the best in the business.
The guy who stole the show for me was Mark Wahlberg. Marky Mark! He gets probably 40% of the film's curse words. But he steals every scene he is in. It is a SHAM that he was not nominated for Best Supporting Actor. He was phenomenal as well.
All of the other supporting actors & actresses -- Martin Sheen, Alec Baldwin, Mark Rolston (Bogs from Shawshank), etc. -- also delivered in their roles.
This film left me wanting more Scorcese. People of my generation don't know him as well because he really sort of peaked in the 80's, but he's apparently one of the best directors of our generation. Scorcese finally getting his Best Director Oscar was like Elway winning the Super Bowl or Earnhardt finally winning the Daytona 500. So I've added some of his movies to my Queue, like Raging Bull, Goodfellas, & Casino.
The real thematic idea that the story studies & tinkers with is that of identity. You have a mob guy as a mole in the police department. And you have a State police officer under-cover as a gang member. And both struggle with their double-lives. You can even see this theme being developed from the line that Nicholson delivers in the trailer:
When I was your age they used to say you could become cops or criminals. What I'm saying to you is this... When you're facing a loaded gun, what's the difference?
What is it that separates the bad guy from the good guy? Each character sells himself to his enemy so well that it's hard to remember who the bad guy is sometimes. But each character deals with self-doubt about who they really are on the inside after doing the things they have done. It's really a fun thing to watch.
The only reason this film didn't receive 5 stars by me is the ending. There's a little twist at the end that didn't need to be there. I didn't buy it, anyway. Nevertheless, I've decided to not let a strange ending spoil my enjoyment of the totality of this film experience. It was suspenseful. It was exciting. It was a great thrill ride. I loved this movie & I think you will, too.
Other films I've seen since Christmas via Netflix:
16 Blocks: 3½ Stars. I liked. You've never seen Bruce Willis like this.
Cars: 4 Stars. I don't care who you are -- that's funny right there.
The Usual Suspects: 3 stars. It was aight.
One Night with the King: 2 stars. Hollywood fouled up the ending.
Man of the Year: 1 star. God-awful film. And I love Robin Williams.
Desperado: 2 stars. Eh...
Once Upon a Time in Mexico: 2 stars. [Sigh...]
The Boondock Saints: 2 stars. Cool concept, but it doesn't deliver.