The Departed (2006)

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Released 14-Mar-2007

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2006
Running Time 145:04
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Martin Scorsese
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio
Matt Damon
Jack Nicholson
Mark Wahlberg
Martin Sheen
Ray Winstone
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $34.95 Music Howard Shore


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Unknown English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

   

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?

Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson)

    Like an Irish lucky charm it was Martin Scorsese's 7th nomination for Best Director that finally earned him an Oscar. After a series of films of varying quality including Bringing Out The Dead, Gangs of New York and The Aviator, Scorsese earned his glittering prize with a dynamic take on the crime thriller that has become one of his most awarded films as well as the most financially successful of his long career.

    The oddity of it all is that The Departed is a study of Irish American gangsters and not his familiar Italian American wiseguys. This is made apparent not just in the opening monologue but in the driving blast of Irish rockers The Dropkick Murphys as the opening credits begin to roll. Filmed partly in Boston, outside of his beloved New York, this is a character study of men under cover and under pressure. It is violent in bursts and funny and shocking at the same time.

    The Departed is based on the Hong Kong action flick Infernal Affairs and the key plot elements are pretty much the same. However, the original film was a glorious blend of melancholy and hyper caffeinated gangster chic that moved so fast it became a struggle to hold on to the plot. Not that this is a criticism. It is part of the charm of the original that you had to stay very awake just to keep up. By contrast Scorsese slows the pace and takes us much deeper into the world of the key players. He is interested not just in crossing and double crossing but in the effect of duplicity, as the men become more and more submerged in lies and deceit.

    The plot is simple and relies on a wicked conceit. We are in Boston where Irish Americans dominate the mob and the police force. Billy Costigan (Leonardo Di Caprio) is a young man from the wrong side of the tracks. He has mobster blood. He joins the police force to escape his heritage only to find that the police have much bigger plans for him. Captain Queenan (Martin Sheen) and his tough offsider Dignam (Mark Wahlberg) want him to work undercover by infiltrating the mob. His mission - to bring down crime boss Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson).

    Across town Costello has his own plans, unaware that the police are about to put a fink into his ranks. He grooms Colin Sullivan ( Matt Damon), a clean cut young man, as an infiltrator into police ranks. Both men excel at the job, convincing their masters that they are worthy of promotion. The only problem is that Queenan and Costello suspect a rat in their midst and each appoints the rat to effectively find themselves!

    Meanwhile, both are in love with the same woman, a shrink who is dedicated to helping policemen recover from work stress and trauma. She (played by relative unknown Vera Farmiga) has her own level of duplicity. Does she give herself utterly to the good cop Damon or throw security away for a life with bad boy Di Caprio.

    So how exactly do you make a good double agent? Do you tell all and risk detection or do you give only so much that your position remains secure but crimes go unchecked. These are amongst the many questions considered in William Monahan's clever script which, as said, opens up the story into a richer whole. Who do you trust? Those who say they are your friends or those who treat you with contempt? Which family is more loving? The cops or the crims?

    It is a tribute to Monahan that he is able to keep the lid on all these ideas without the story running off into flights of fancy. The acting performances are universally good. It has been years since Hollywood gave us a film so packed with star wattage that didn't scream look at me! For this fantastic cast is memorable, not for individual scenery chewers but the glorious ensemble work demonstrating the sheer élan of acting at its highest level.

    The leads Damon and Di Caprio play amongst their most detailed roles to date. Playing characters hiding big secrets is never easy and both resist the temptation to give away signals of their deception. Damon is all shifty perfection and Di Caprio barely buttoned down rage. Each convinces us that they could make just as good partners as foes.

    The wide cast of supporting players are also given reign to eat up their roles. Wahlberg and Nicholson are razor sharp. Both sell the funny side of the script with their ferocious performances. I am fairly sure that Wahlberg ate up a large percentage of the 237 'f***s' in the film with his potty mouthed Dignam.

    Of course, the devil gets all the best lines and Nicholson spits out some Monahan pearlers:

Costello: How's your mother?
Man in Bar: She's on her way out.
Costello: We all are, act accordingly.

    Surprisingly and pleasantly, Nicholson resists the temptation to swagger and shout his way through the role. His Costello is both dangerous and ordinary in a way that rings true.

    Farmiga givers real depth to her role as the conflicted shrink. She is the real find of the film playing intelligence and vulnerability in equal measures.

    I would like to see a movie featuring Alec Baldwin where he didn't grab his crotch but I had to forgive him because his performance was so rich and funny as the tough as nails cop heading an anti-mob squad.

    The Departed has its strong advocates who believe it to be the best American movie in decades. Others are not so sure feeling that it is lacking when compared to Scorsese's masterpieces Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and Goodfellas.

    It may not be his best film. However it is one Scorsese film that delights with each repeated viewing. Lacking the immediate visual flair of Goodfellas it seems at first as a very straight film for Scorsese. But repeated viewings shows the craft beneath the skin and the mastery of the dramatic form that makes it a defining American tragedy. It is a bold, riveting drama, with a surprising amount of humour chucked in, that captivates from beginning to end.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The Departed was originally presented in the cinema at a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. It has been faithfully transferred to DVD in this ratio. The transfer is 16x9 enhanced.

    The print is flawless. There are no artefacts of any kind through the film, at over 2 hours long, has barely any room to move on the single layer disc. There are no compression issues.

    As to the image quality it bears mentioning that the film in the cinema was dark and the whole colour palette subdued. The sky is constantly overcast and the feel of the film is in keeping with the serious matters at hand. The black levels are suitably deep and the contrast well established.

    For that reason it is not a pretty film. It is a sobering drama and the cinematography of long time Scorsese associate Michael Ballhaus brings home that point. Neither police nor mob get to celebrate too many moments of true happiness in the film.

    There are subtitles in English and English for the Hearing Impaired which give a good account of on-screen action. There is a light dusting of film grain which is appropriate. Flesh tones are accurate.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The Departed has a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack running at 384Kb/s.

    The film features a lot of shooting which translates well in the surround set up. Otherwise the surrounds are used mainly for delivery of some well chosen rock music which also gets the sub woofer fired up. Of particular note is the Rolling Stones' Gimme Shelter which, since the Altamont concert, will always be synonymous with a world gone to hell and I'm Shipping Up to Boston by The Dropkick Murphys which launches on the wild ride into the depths of the cops and robbers game.

    The dialogue is clear and in proper sync allowing the wonderful dialogue to shine through. The Boston accents can take a little while to absorb and some of the Irish voices (particularly Costello's offsiders) are very Irish but, on the whole, this is a well produced soundtrack.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Theatrical Trailer

    Actually, the trailer is pretty good building to its own climax and containing a fair bit of the mood of the film without too many spoiler moments.

    For the other editions see below.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

   The Departed comes in three editions in Region 4 including a 2 DVD edition and a JB Hi Fi Special Edition which comes with a copy of the script. As well it is being released on both High Definition formats.

    The review copy provided to our site is the basic edition on a single sided DVD and containing only the trailer.

    The Region 4 2-Disc Special Edition states on the back that it contains the following extras:

"Stranger Than Fiction: The True Story Of Whitey Bulger, Southie and The Departed" featurette
"Crossing Criminal Cultures" featurette
"Scorsese On Scorsese" - documentary

    However, a reader of DVD Compare has pointed out that the Scorsese feature is nowhere to be seen. As you can see below a reader of this site has now clarified this point.

    The Region 1 Special Edition contains the following (with NTSC timings):

9 Additional Scenes with Introductions by Director Martin Scorsese
"Stranger Than Fiction: The True Story of Whitey Bulger, Southie And The Departed" - featurette (21:06)
"Scorsese On Scorsese" - documentary (85:42)
"Crossing Criminal Cultures" - featurette (24:02)
Additional Scenes With Introductions By Director Martin Scorsese:(19:23 / 'Play All' option only)
- Colin And Ballistics Instructor - Billy And Drill Instructor - Flashback - Billy's Father - Billy Smokes And Thinks - Ellerby Press Conference - Ellerby Questions Colin - Billy At Shoreline - Delahunt And Billy - Colin Debriefed About Costello

    The Region 3 Hong Kong Edition contains some different extras but also a DTS soundtrack. The extras are:

"HBO First Look - The Departed: Facing a Loaded Gun" - featurette (13:00)
"The Departed: The Inspiration" - featurette (23:01)

    The omission of the Scorsese biography makes the Region 1 version a better buy.

Summary

    The Departed is a brilliantly crafted drama that sings in its script and in the sheer craft of the acting performances.

    The transfer is excellent both in image quality and in the sound.

    As for the extras - well, they look good on paper!

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Friday, April 20, 2007
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DVR 630H-S, using Component output
DisplayPanasonic TH-50PV60A 50' Plasma. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationOnkyo TX - SR603
SpeakersOnkyo 6.1 Surround

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
R4 2-Disc Special Edition - Downtown REPLY POSTED
High standards for video? - REPLY POSTED
Scorsese On Scorsese -
Single layer? - chaossphere
Dual Layer - richie007au (don't read it. my bio is dangerous to your health)
Distributor Response???? - El Oranz
RE: Distributor Response???? -
TCM Doco - richie007au (don't read it. my bio is dangerous to your health) REPLY POSTED
Poor initiation -
Scorsese On Scorsese - REPLY POSTED
Dual Layer - single disc edition -