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Martin Scorsese
Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson
Writing Credits:
William Monahan

An undercover state cop who has infiltrated an Irish gang and a mole in the police force working for the same mob race to track down and identify each other before being exposed to the enemy, after both sides realize their outfit has a rat.

Box Office:
$90 million.
Opening Weekend:
$26,887,467 on 3017 screens.
Domestic Gross:

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English PCM 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 151 min.
Price: $14.97
Release Date: 2/13/2007
• “Stranger Than Fiction” Featurette
• “Crossing Criminal Cultures” Featurette
• Additional Scenes
• Trailer


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


The Departed [Blu-Ray] (2006)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 16, 2014)

Sometimes folks win Oscars for their body of work and not the film at hand. Consider Paul Newman’s trophy for The Color of Money, an award that appeared to arrive mostly to thank the actor for his career. While Newman was fine in the movie, I doubt that he would’ve won without the feeling he’d been deprived of Oscars in the past.

This same impression greeted 2006’s The Departed. Despite many well-regarded films, Martin Scorsese fell into “always a bridesmaid” territory until he finally got Best Director and Best Picture for Departed.

Did he deserve to win for that flick? Probably not. Departed offers a professional, enjoyable film but not one that touches the greatness of Scorsese’s best efforts.

Departed mostly concentrates on the lives of two South Boston boys, and we meet Colin Sullivan as a preteen (Conor Donovan). The son of a deceased, well-respected local, Colin gets pulled under the wing of notorious Irish mobster Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson).

Costello turns into a surrogate father to Colin, which means it seems odd that as an adult (Matt Damon), he becomes a state cop. He winds up under Captain Ellerby (Alec Baldwin) in the Special Investigations Unit, a group which – wait for it! – spends much of its time trying to bring down Costello.

In addition, we meet another newly issued Massachusetts officer, Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio). He comes from a family with many connections to crime as well as a silver spoon element, and he winds up in a secret unit under Capt. Queenan (Martin Sheen) and Staff Sgt. Dignam (Mark Wahlberg).

They put Billy in a deep undercover role in which he goes to jail and then lands a job with Costello upon release. This allows him to infiltrate Frank’s operation and inform the authorities about Costello’s dealings. The movie follows the dual existences lived by Billy and Colin as they work on various sides of the law.

While Scorsese dealt with the criminal element many times in his work, Departed represents a departure for him given its location and characters. Whereas Scorsese traditionally focuses on New York Italians, Departed takes the director to the Boston Irish.

This lack of personal affinity for place and people shows up during the film, as Scorsese never really seems to connect to the subjects. He gets there well enough for them to allow the movie to work acceptably well, but there’s an intangible that remains absent. The flick lacks the easy fluidity of the director’s other crime-related efforts, as he struggles to make his subject matter three-dimensional.

Some have described Departed as feeling like a Scorsese-wannabe created it. I don’t think that’s a fair assessment, though I can see why some greeted it that way.

Perhaps the problems stem from that lack of personal connection I mentioned, but Departed occasionally seems more like it boasts Scorsese’s stylistic tendencies without the usual heart or impact. I don’t want to imply that the film lacks any power or energy, but it just doesn’t manage the heat and passion of the director’s better work.

In terms of cast, Departed excels. As always, Scorsese recruits a high caliber of talent, and the actors live up to the material.

Actually, the support cast overshadows the leads. Jack Nicholson got a lot of attention for his flamboyant turn as Costello. Nicholson is good in the role, but I can’t say he does anything we’ve not seen in the past. Indeed, I detected a lot of Batman’s Jack Napier here. Anyone who expects real fireworks from the first Nicholson/Scorsese collaboration won’t find remarkable results.

On the other hand, Scorsese manages to evoke terrific work from the usually drab Mark Wahlberg. The flat, wooden Wahlberg never materializes in Departed. He injects his role with gusto and fervor and virtually leaps off the screen. This is a Wahlberg who finally demonstrates personality; he deserved his Oscar nomination.

Unfortunately, Alec Baldwin didn’t get a similar nod, but that may because everyone expects this kind of work from him. Baldwin consistently steals the show in the roles he takes, and that goes for his turn here. Baldwin made a smooth transition from leading man to character actor; indeed, I think he does better now that he has less pressure on him. Baldwin knocks one out of the part in his limited screen time.

I certainly can’t fault the movie’s complicated story, as it balances the various sides of things and gives us a consistently involving tale. At times the flick almost overwhelms us with various plot elements and twists, but it manages to stay more than acceptably clear and concise. The turns maintain our interest and add spark to the proceedings.

I just can’t help but think that a talent like Scorsese should have done more with The Departed. From start to finish, this delivers a professional, entertaining and involving flick. It simply doesn’t rise to the level of true excellence.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B/ Bonus C+

The Departed appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. From the early days of Blu-ray, this remained a positive presentation but it came with some moderate deficits.

Only minor issues affected sharpness. Most of the flick showed nice delineation, but exceptions occurred, as occasional wider shots appeared a bit soft and indistinct. Still, overall definition seemed positive and occasionally great. I noticed no shimmering or jagged edges, and source flaws caused small distractions; I saw a speck or two but nothing more. Edge haloes weren’t a factor, and I sensed no excessive noise reduction.

Departed went with a fairly subdued palette. The colors appeared fairly accurate and full within the movie’s design; skin tones were occasionally a bit reddish, but in general, the hues seemed fine. Blacks also seemed deep and firm, while shadows demonstrated good clarity and definition. This was a good image but not a great one.

Though the Uncompressed PCM 5.1 soundtrack of The Departed never excelled, it filled out the action reasonably well. Despite the many crime-related sequences, the soundfield remained pretty chatty and music-oriented. These used the front channels well, and ambience also added to the proceedings. A smattering of louder sequences brought out nice involvement from the surrounds, but don’t expect them to dazzle. They worked as fairly minor participants most of the time.

Audio quality was positive. Speech occasionally sounded a little metallic, but the lines were always intelligible and usually appeared natural.

Music depended on the source. Score elements were vivid and full, and most of the songs followed suit, though they had some ups and downs. Effects seemed accurate and distinctive. While nothing about the audio stood out as particularly memorable, the mix succeeded for the film.

How did the Blu-ray compare to the original 2006 DVD? The lossless audio had a little more zing, and the visuals showed stronger clarity and vividness. This was a nice step up compared to the DVD.

Some of the DVD’s extras repeat here. Stranger Than Fiction: The True Story of Whitey Bulger, Southie and The Departed runs 21 minutes and seven seconds. It includes interviews with director Martin Scorsese, Massachusetts State Police Major (Rtd.) Tom Duffy, Boston Globe reporters Shelley Murphy, Emily Sweeney and Kevin Cullen, state representative/author Brian Wallace, screenwriter William Monahan, Whitey Bulger’s former top lieutenant Kevin Weeks, A Criminal and an Irishman author Patrick Nee, former pastor of St Augustine’s Church Msgr. Thomas McDonnell, and actors Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon and Mark Wahlberg.

“Fiction” looks at the tale of Boston gangster James “Whitey” Bulger and his parallels with The Departed’s Frank Costello. We get notes about the story’s adaptation and the South Boston setting, performances, and a few other filmmaking elements.

However, “Fiction” mostly concentrates on Bulger’s exploits. It provides a reasonably informative and concise look at the person behind the Costello character, all of which prove quite interesting for viewers of the film. I’d have preferred a documentary with a little greater length and depth, but this one offers some stimulating elements.

Crossing Criminal Cultures goes for 24 minutes, three seconds and features remarks from Scorsese, DiCaprio, Damon, Duffy, Nee, Cullen, John Jay College of Criminal Justice forensic psychologist Dr. Louis B. Schlesinger, actor Alec Baldwin, and Rolling Stone film critic Peter Travers. “Cultures” looks at Scorsese’s “Little Italy” upbringing and its impact on his viewpoint. We also hear a little about the gangster flicks that influenced him as a kid. Scorsese discusses how references to those movies appeared in his later work, and we learn about the evolution of gangster flicks over the years. We find some coverage of violence in Scorsese’s films and various themes.

I really enjoyed many parts of “Cultures”. It’s fascinating to see the shots from the old films and watch their echoes in Scorsese’s own efforts. Overall, “Cultures” proves to be quite interesting.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we get nine Additional Scenes. These fill a total of 19 minutes, 24 seconds; that running time includes non-optional introductions by Scorsese. The disc presents the scenes as one long piece with no chapter markers, so you can’t easily skip from one to another. That’s awkward and somewhat frustrating.

As for the content itself, the scenes are largely insubstantial. We see a little more of Alec Baldwin, which is a good thing, and a few sequences go on a bit longer. This means extra character depth in some ways, and I like the flashback to young Billy and his dad. Still, the scenes don’t add much in general. Scorsese’s intros are useful, as he sets up the segments and lets us know why he left them out of the flick.

The Blu-ray drops only one extra from the DVD, but it’s a significant one: a nearly 90-minute documentary called “Scorsese on Scorsese”. It’s a good program so its absence disappoints.

While it forms an interesting picture, The Departed doesn’t match up with director Martin Scorsese’s best. It entertains and acts as a worthwhile experience, but it doesn’t leave a substantial impression like Scorsese’s more memorable material. The Blu-ray presents good picture and audio along with a few supplements; unfortunately, it drops the most substantial extra from the DVD. The absence of that documentary disappoints, but the Blu-ray delivers the more appealing version of the film itself.

To rate this film, visit the 2004 DVD review of THE DEPARTED

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