DVD Review: The Departed (Two-Disc Special Edition)
Release Date: February 13, 2007
Distributor: Warner Home Video
· Martin Scorsese
· Leonardo DiCaprio
· Matt Damon
· Jack Nicholson
· Mark Wahlberg
· Martin Sheen
· Alec Baldwin
· Ray Winstone
· Vera Farmiga
· Anthony Anderson
· IMDb: The Departed
by R.J. Carter
Published: February 12, 2007
Just when you think the mobster genre has been all tapped out, along comes Martin Scorsese with "The Departed" to give a fresh look at things. The screenplay from William Monahan was based on the script for "Infernal Affairs", an Asian action flick, a story that translated naturally to the setting of South Boston, where events could map up -- figuratively, if not literally -- with the story of one of South Boston's most notorious gangsters: James "Whitey" Bulger.
Jack Nicholson plays Frank Costello, the untouchable mobster who's a little off in the head -- a characterization that Nicholson plays with almost too much ease for comfort. In flashback scenes, we see a younger Costello working the streets, which puts him in contact with young Colin Sullivan, whose father he knew. Taking the young Colin under his wing, Costello grooms him for the police academy -- which is where we next see him (played by Matt Damon), graduating with honors to become a Massachussetts State Trooper and a member of the Special Investigations Unit.
But Sullivan has a classmate who also comes into the States at the same time: Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio), a young man with a history of mob activity in his family, and who wants to make a clean start for his life. But he's not going to get that chance, as he's quickly plucked aside by Queenan (Martin Sheen) and Dignam (Mark Wahlberg, in his Oscar-nominated role) to be an undercover informant in Costello's organization.
Very shortly, both organizations know they have a rat. The state troopers assign their best officer -- Sgt. Sullivan -- to find out who the mole is in their organization; which isn't going to be easy, since Sullivan is the mole. And as Costigan sees just how violent Costello can get -- witnessing murders, seeing body parts treated as casual knick-knacks -- he grows more and more fearful for his life.
Street Meeting. Dignam and Queenan have a surprise meeting
with mob boss Frank Costello.
(L-R: Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Jack Nicholson)
Sullivan, on Costello's orders, does his best to find out who the rat is in Costello's organization. But the files are locked, and neither Queenan nor Dignam will reveal who their men are.
Interestingly enough, both Sullivan and Costigan start seeing the same police psychiatrist: Sullivan as her boyfriend, Costigan as her patient. Madolyn (Vera Farmiga), the psychiatrist, eventually begins to suspect Sullivan's connections, even as she simultaneously enters into a surreptitious affair with Costigan.
The big crime that everything builds around is the theft and sale of microchips. And in the course of his business with Costello, Costigan tumbles onto a bit of a surprise: Costello's never been arrested, because he's a secret FBI informant! At which point, the entire thing becomes "The Godfather" meets G.K. Chesterton's "The Man Who Was Thursday", where the hunter and the hunted are all the same people.
Violence and tension build with every passing minute, until the inevitable confrontations occur and nearly every member of the cast becomes one of the departed. Not to detract from Mark Wahlberg's accomplishments in this film, but just about everyone in the cast turned in a polished performance. If it had been my vote, I'd likely have given the nod to Martin Sheen.
This two-disc special edition treatment of Martin Scorsese's masterpiece is definitely worth the extra few bucks over the standard release. With the first disc, you get the widescreen feature presentation (with audio in English 5.1, French 5.1, and Spanish 5.1, optionally subtitled in all three languages), as well as the original theatrical trailer.
Street Justice. Billy Costigan learns of Colin Sullivan's betrayal
of the state troopers.
(L-R: Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio)
But put in disc two, and you get an even bigger dose of true crime. The first feature, "Stranger than Fiction: The True Story of Whitey Bulger, Southie and the Departed", is a twenty-one minute featurette about the legendary gangster. You'll get input from Boston Globe reporters Kevin Cullen, Shelley Murphy, and Emily Sweeney, as well as retired Massachussetts State Police Major Tom Duffy, and Kevin Weeks, a former top lieutenant in Bulger's organization, and others who knew the man personally. You'll learn about the deal Bulger swung with FBI agent John Connolly, the final arrest of Bulger's partner, Stephen Flemmi, and the deal Kevin Weeks worked by showing where the bodies were buried. Oh, and you'll learn that there is still a $1 million reward for information leading to the capture of James "Whitey" Bulger, who is still on the lam, and is second only to Osama Bin Laden on the FBI's "Most Wanted" list.
The Turner Classic Movies presentation, "Scorsese on Scorsese", is a nearly 90 minute feature where Martin Scorsese narrates his own biography. This documentary includes home movie footage of Scorsese and his parents, leading into some indepth commentary by Scorsese, with clips, on several of his films, starting with "Who's That Knocking at My Door?" (1967) through "Mean Streets", "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore", "Taxi Driver", "Raging Bull", "The King of Comedy", "The Last Temptation of Christ", "Goodfellas", "Cape Fear", "The Age of Innocence", "Kundun", "Gangs of New York", and "The Aviator". To end it on a light note, we see Scorsese's self-deprecating appearance in an American Express commercial.
"Crossing Criminal Cultures" is a twenty-five minute featurette, which is another look at Scorsese's career, starting with his growing up in Little Italy. Scorsese is joined by Peter Travers, film critic for Rolling Stone Magazine. Scorsese's asthma as a young boy probably saved him from ending up as one of the mobster characters he writes about, since he grew up with the activity all around him. He also grew up with it in the theaters, as he cut his teeth on films like "Public Enemy". We see several clips from the Warner Brothers vaults of old gangster movies, before we get to the part where young Scorsese was exposed to the works of foreign filmmakers like Ingmar Bergman and Akira Kurosawa, which opened up new avenues of storytelling for him.
The last twenty minute feature is the appropriately titled, "Additional Scenes with Introductions by Director Martin Scorsese". Here, Scorsese introduces the set as well as each individual scene, explaining why they were cut.
Previews on this set include "The Painted Veil", "The Reaping", "300", and "Blood Diamond".