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Review

‘Departed’ keeps audience captivated

October 12, 2006

In the past, Martin Scorsese has proved he is a talented filmmaker, while still having the humor to cameo every once in awhile. Though he’s been mostly dormant for the last decade, he is without a doubt back on top in “The Departed.”

In this film, Scorsese once again tackles the mob, but this time it is located in Boston and involves Irish-heritage criminals rather than Italian.

For years the state police have tried to take down local boss Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson). It is also at this time when the department brings in new recruits Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon).

Due to his family’s history and connections, Costigan is sent on an undercover assignment to become an informant in Costello’s crew. But ironically, a mole is also in the department.

Since childhood, Sullivan has looked up to Costello as a surrogate father, who took Sullivan under his wing while growing up. So to prove himself, Sullivan uses his inside knowledge to keep Costello ahead of the police.

Eventually each side begins to suspect a rat is in their midst, escalating the suspense as each informant tries to identify the other before they’re exposed.

I have to tell you, though Scorsese’s films in the past few years, “Gangs of New York” and “The Aviator,” have been alright, but not necessarily great. “The Departed” is what it says — a clear departure into greatness.

Under his expertise, Scorsese brings a sense of realism to the screen and filmgoers along for the ride. Though the film is two and a half hours long, it sure doesn’t feel like it because viewers are involved.

The violence is sudden and realistic, the dialogue crackling with harsh words reflecting antipathy. As time passes viewers acknowledge the gritty and unpredictable story, as each man does his duty while trying to remember who he really is underneath.

You often hear of all-star casts, which means the acting is supposed to be superb even though most of the time that isn’t the case. But here, the acting really does deserve applause.

DiCaprio and Damon bounce off each other perfectly, one terrified and the other cool under the pressure. Nicholson, like always, is terrific.

In an explosive performance, Mark Wahlberg plays Sgt. Dignam, a no-nonsense officer who throws insults everywhere with malice and without pause. Though he is a minor character, he effortlessly steals every scene, repeatedly bringing the audience into a sense of reality where people aren’t polite. Instead they are killing each other as a manner of occupation.

I wouldn’t be surprised if DiCaprio and Wahlberg end up with Oscar nominations in a few months-they’re that good

But the real praise belongs to Scorsese, who has given his best film in more than a decade. Of course I can’t be surprised, he’s always done well when it came to crime dramas with “Goodfellas” and “Casino” already under his belt.

In short, every actor and every quality of this film goes together so beautifully. Scorsese has given an instant classic.  If anyone deserves the best director Oscar this year, it’s him, for this has got to be one the best films of his long career.