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The Departed is set in South Boston where the state police force is waging an all-out war to take down the city's top organized crime ring. The key is to end the reign of powerful mob boss Frank Costello from the inside. A young rookie, Billy Costigan is assigned to infiltrate Costello's mob. While Billy is working to gain Costello's trust, another young cop, Colin Sullivan is among a handful of elite officers whose mission is to bring Costello down. But what his superiors don't know is that Colin is working for Costello, keeping the crime boss one step ahead of the police. Each man becomes deeply consumed by his double life, gathering information about the plans and counter-plans of the operation he has penetrated. But when it becomes clear to both the gangsters and the police that they have a mole in their midst, Billy and Colin find themselves in constant danger of being caught-and each must race to uncover the identity of the other man in time to save himself.
For more about The Departed and the The Departed Blu-ray release, see the The Departed Blu-ray Review published by Greg Maltz on September 27, 2007 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Vera Farmiga
Director: Martin Scorsese
» See full cast & crew
The Departed Blu-ray Review
Scorcese finally gets his Oscar and both The Departed and Infernal Affairs get the BD treatment
Reviewed by Greg Maltz, September 27, 2007
The Departed is an interesting twist on the mafia genre. The film weaves intersecting storylines of an undercover cop working in the mob and a gangster plant as an officer in the Boston police department. Such a premise has endless possibilities for plot twists, character growth and violence. Director Martin Scorcese excels in all areas and brings his superb camera work, characteristic rock soundtrack and dramatic flair to the production. As both moles go through intense moments when their cover may be blown, the film achieves a high level of intrigue and suspense. Aside from Goodfellas, The Departed is the only title that lets you enjoy Scorsese's work in Blu-ray. And while Goodfellas is a far superior movie, the 2.4:1, 1080p presentation of The Departed, using the VC-1 codec is one of the most impressive pictures yet from Warner at this stage of the studio's blu-ray rollout. Sure, the film has been digitally cleaned up and enhanced, but it's still vibrant and detailed enough to exceed all expectations but those of the most demanding videophile.
The Departed is based on a superior film shot in Hong Kong called Infernal Affairs. The difference between the earlier version and Scorcese's remake is like the difference between jazz virtuoso Lester "Prez" Young and the saxophonists who followed. Prez was an original. He had a feathery tone and an unconventional approach to the mechanics of the horn. His music told stories, using melodic lines with few notes. Compare that to the saxophonists who came after. They often tried to tell the same story, but with a more acerbic tone, more notes cluttering the melody, more complex harmonic structure. Their approach did not connect with audiences in the same way. You get the idea. Infernal Affairs and The Departed are both good films, but the original tells a story on another level and the performances of its cast are more accessible and inspirational. That said, Scorcese's vision has a power, energy and thematic scope that may be more appealing to viewers on this side of the pond.
While few American viewers will know the actors in Infernal Affairs, The Departed is chock full of Hollywood heavyweights. Representing the older generation are Jack Nicholson as mob boss Frank Costello, Martin Sheen as straight laced police captain Oliver Queenan and Alec Baldwin as the dry but hotheaded captain George Ellerby. The younger characters include Matt Damon as Colin Sullivan, Costello's mole in the police force; Leonardo DiCaprio as Billy Costigan, Queenan's mole in Costello's gang; and Mark Wahlberg as SSgt. Sean Dignam--the "acerbic tone cluttering the melody", to extend the metaphor. Dignam was superfluous to the story and such a character did not exist in Infernal Affairs. Neither did the female lead character's relationship with the undercover cop. Both deviations from the original plot served only to clutter the story and seemingly confound the actors.
The Departed Blu-ray, Video Quality
From the opening footage of south Boston's racial strife to the climactic rooftop scene and final moments, the color and contrast of The Departed ranks among the elite reference-quality BDs. The picture is solid and vibrant, with deep black levels and absolutely gorgeous resolution and color. Some detail was sacrificed in postproduction to give the film its modern feel. Grain and noise is at a minimum, which will please some viewers who aren't accustomed to film artefacts. As for digital artefacts, I see none.
Watch the cat-and-mouse scene where Damon is being pursued by DiCaprio in the dark alley. Smoke, reflections and shadows are rendered gorgeously. Dark areas of the screen do not degenerate into pixellation or motion artefacts. About the only possible complaint is that the picture gives up some depth and detail to digitally enhance the color and contrast, with some "glow" effects highlighting bright areas. Scorcese has opted for this look in many of his films, starting I believe with The Age of Innocence. It has become a stylistic choice to go a just a touch soft for more dramatic lighting and saturation. It may not please you if you're a demon for detail, but the effect is stunning while retaining ample realism in 1080p.
The Departed Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Not only does The Departed boast the best overall picture I've seen from Warner, it is one of the studio's few releases to feature LPCM. The sound is a revelation. Listen to Jack Nicholson's voice in the opening scenes as he shakes down the owner of a local shop and hits on the young clerk who works there. The menacing timbre, vowel sounds and cadence that long ago became Nicholson's trademarks achieve a new presence and palpability, albeit with a fake Boston accent. It is not only Nicholson. All voices have a depth and detail that is stunning and, unlike most DD tracks, utterly nonfatiguing. The music, too, has qualities that exceeded what I am accustomed to on most pop CDs. The entire range, from midbass to treble delivers a realism and detail that Warner should strive for in all its Blu-ray releases.
The 5.1 PCM also achieves greater imaging and superior attack and decay of such effects as gunshots, squealing tires and breaking glass. Though the rear speakers and LFE channel is used sparingly, the audio is disarming enough to keep you riveted even when the acting and plot twists are not fully satisfying. Songs like Gimme Shelter weave in and out of the action in characteristic Scorcese fashion, but with an improvement in macrodetail that proves ultimately euphonic and indeed bolsters the overall enjoyment of the production.
The Departed Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Maybe Warner realizes that buyers of this BD may consider Scorcese as more of a draw than the actual film. That is certainly borne out in the majority of supplementary material. Aside from a 22-minute special on real life Boston gangster Whitey Bulger, who inspired Jack Nicholson's character, the theatrical trailer and nine deleted scenes that should absolutely stay on the cutting room floor, the featurettes focus on the director. Of particular interest is the 24-minute "Crossing Criminal Cultures". The featurette explores Scorcese's mafia films--not just The Departed, but Goodfellas, Mean Streets and Casino as well. All have themes in common, of course, and Scorcese's fascination with the genre is explained. Even the deleted scenes each feature an introduction by Scorcese. All bonus material, including the deleted scenes are in standard definition.
The Departed Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Scorcese seems to be at his strongest when he explores the people and neighborhoods he knows from his experiences in New York. He is able to establish emotional and even spiritual payoff in developing the stories and characters that occupy his familiar terrain. But when Scorcese steps outside of that arena, as he did here in focusing on Bostonian Irish mobsters instead of New Yorker Italian mafioso, it can leave me cold. The commercial elements of the film, populating it with Hollywood bigshots who have not worked with Scorcese before, seem to hurt more than help.
DiCaprio cannot authoritatively pull off the role of Costigan until well into the film, when the pressures the the undercover cop begin to hide the actor's inability to convincingly underplay his role. With The Departed, Scorcese has now made almost as many films with DiCaprio as with Robert De Niro who developed his skill in tandem with Scorcese, starting before DiCaprio was born. I may not need to see De Niro in more Scorcese films (though such a project is rumored to be underway), but I do need to see lead actors other than DiCaprio, a weak link in Scorcese films since Gangs of New York in 2002. Granted, many solid actors appear in The Departed, and Scorcese coaxes good, if not inspired, performances out of them all. But the cluttered plot and stylisic decisions make the emotional couldron of the story impossible to access. Matt Damon excelled in his performance and I still had some issues with his character. It's a good thing Scorcese is celebrated as much for the way his films erupt in violence as in emotional crisis, or The Departed may not have earned multiple Oscars.
On that note, I watched with great interest Scorcese's acceptance speech for the award of Best Director. Finally, that elusive award was earned, but for a film that some have critiqued as a convoluted, uninspired mediocrity compared to Scorcese's more focused gangster epics like Mean Streets, Goodfellas and Casino, let alone the masterpieces, Raging Bull and Taxi Driver. And indeed it is a mediocrity compared to Infernal Affairs. But a mediocre film for Scorcese is still far better than an extraordinary film in the hands of a lesser director. Coupled with the brilliant audio and video quality on display throughout, The Departed is an easy recommendation for some and a must-have for fans of Scorcese, Jack Nicholson, Matt Damon or DiCaprio.
The Departed: Other Editions
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