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The Departed - Movie Thoughts

Scorsese gets back to mean streets with his latest offering: The Departed. This is a double-cross story which involves a cop infiltrating a Boston mafia and a gangster infiltrating the Boston police force. A remake of the HongKong flick Infernal Affairs, the movie is a solid entertainer but doesn't live up to the pundits' hype. I tuned into to the movie with high expectations - though I wasn't disappointed at the end, I wasn't excited by the movie. Raging Bull still remains the best Scorsese movie I've seen followed by After Hours. When it comes to gansters, Goodfellas holds it's ground.

I had a few problems with the movie: I wondered if the movie were set in the 70's. Matt Damon (mole in the police force) frequently uses cellphones to call or send messages (with a different SIM) to Jack Nicholson (the mafia boss) while in the office and nobody thinks of tracing a call from the office inspite of knowing the presence of an infiltrator. And when Damon requests social security information of the new entrants into the gang to check their background, it's all written in paper and handed over by Jack Nicholson. Now, what happened to encrypted transfer of contents through computers? The underworld operators shown in TV serials use better technology for their covert operations!!

And then there's the rise of DiCaprio (cop in the mafia) in the gang which seems highly implausibe. He accompanies either Jack Nicholson or his right hand all the time. How does he become such a trusted member to the mafia leaders in such a short span of time? The mode of communication between DiCaprio and his senior police officials isn't convincing either. They just meet in a public place and shout at each other without adequate security. If the gangsters had either followed DiCaprio or searched his place thoroughly, they would have found at least ten pieces of evidence to prove that he's a cop. And had the police force used their sophisticated technology to trace calls emanating from their block to Jack Nicholson, they might have nailed Damon on the firtst day of his service.

Though there are loopholes in the screenplay, the final product is a decent drama and Scorsese does a very good job with this script. The cast is star studded: Martin Sheen, Mark Wahlberg, Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jack Nicholson, Ray Winstone... and all of them deliver creditable performaces with DiCaprio stealing the best actor prize. This is his third movie with the titan and the growth is very visible. DiCaprio wonderfully expresses his fear, anguish and hatred in a way a mature actor might find hard to portray. Vera Farmiga as the love interest of both Damon and DiCaprio rounds up the cast. Micheal Ballhaus' camera is always in the right position and Thelma Schoonmaker's scissors always seem to cut at the right film.

The Academy has robbed Scorsese of the best director trophy for almost 30 years. Though this is not a great product, Scorsese doesn't falter anywhere with the material made available to him and my hunch is that he'll be the winner this time just because the members of the Academy want to redeem themselves of guilt - just like giving a life-time award to Robert Altman before his chapter closed. It's a shame that the script by Monahan isn't as refined as the other aspects of the movie, but he sparkles with witty and inventive use of words. Here's an example: "There's guys you can hit and guys you can't hit. Now he's not a guy you can't hit, but he's pretty close to a guy you can't hit".

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