So, Scorsese is making a movie, you say? It's a remake of a Hong Kong flick, really? Is it any good? Damn right it's good! I don't know where to begin about this movie other than this is a near perfect piece of contemporary filmmaking. We open with a long running prologue that introduces the main players to us. In fact, this movie has one of the longest prologues I can recall maybe since Fiddler On The Roof. The brilliant part of it is that during the entire introduction we never see Jack Nicholson's face in the light, he is always in the darkness and only until he is finished with his speech does he step into the light. The story revolves around so many characters that to describe the plot in detail would take awhile. All you need to know is that Leo DiCaprio plays a rejected cop who is chosen to do this dirty undercover job to help arrest mob boss Frank Costello, played brilliantly by Jack Nicholson. On the other hand, Frank has his own contact within the police force played by Matt Damon. So, we have situational irony here in that the cops are trying to figure out who is leaking information to Frank Costello, and Frank Costello is trying to figure out who among his guys is leaking information to the cops. The movie has so many brilliantly constructed characters that not one person overshadows another. There is so much going on yet is incredibly focused thanks to a brilliant adapted screenplay by William Monahan. Monahan has proven to me that he is the next great screenwriter in Hollywood, his first screenplay was Kingdom Of Heaven and he is currently doing Jurassic Park IV and Tripoli. He has a bright future ahead of him. Anyway, back to the movie.
Talk about brilliant direction, this movie has Marty Scorsese written all over it, it is oozing with Scorsese. He used a red color tone in one scene with Jack Nicholson and these two girls as he throws cocaine all over the place, and I thought it was brilliant. At the climactic shootout at the end he uses a stylized way of freeze stopping the frame, which I thought was really cool. The way the scenes are structured are sharp, quick, and intense. I had to give my neck a quick stretch after I left the theater because my entire body was tensed up throughout the entire 2 and a half hour movie. Did I mention this movie is bloody and brutal as hell? Oh yes, but the violence is not just for the sake of it, consider it an opera of violence if you will. Everything about this movie is fresh and nothing feels like it has been done before (unless you've seen the original). The storylines play out smoothly and they work. The dialogue in this movie was brilliant, I don't remember the last time I have seen dialogue that flowed so naturally as it did here. The lines are sharp, funny, meaningful, and they really shape out each individual character.
One other thing to note about the movie is the use of music, not score, but music. I have come to the conclusion that "Gimme Shelter" is Martin Scorsese's favorite song considering he used it with Casino and a few times here in The Departed. Howard Shore's score rarely comes in, but when it does it is a unique and effective way to move the scenes along.
All in all this is a brilliant film. If Amazon would allow half star intervals I would rate this film 4.5 stars. I felt like there was no emotional connection to the characters. There was definitely emotion being expressed by the actors, but they weren't relatable to the audience. All the characters in this movie are filthy rats and scum-bags, so as an audience we can only be entertained by what is on the screen and not really take anything away from it. I didn't think knocking down a whole star because of that was justified, so I left it as a 5 star rating, but know that it's 4.5 in my head.
This is the best cast I have ever seen assembled on screen. Every actor here is at the top of their game. Jack Nicholson is brilliantly menacing in this movie and will be nominated for his supporting role, maybe even walk away with the win. Matt Damon and Leo DiCaprio are at the top of their games too, sporting authentic accents and all. We really believe what they are going through. Ray Winstone shines as Frank's right hand man and it's nice to see him becoming more prominent in American cinema. Many of you may know Winstone as the voice of Mr. Beaver from the recent Chronicles Of Narnia movie, he was also recently in The Proposition. Mark Wahlberg is amazingly sharp and witty in his role and gets some of the biggest chuckles from his lines. We get more great support from Alec Baldwin and Martin Sheen, both turning in great performances. Not one rotten egg in the entire batch, even Anthony Anderson earns his place in a Martin Scorsese picture.
I think what initially put me off of this movie was the trash marketing campaign that Warner had for the film. I really wasn't all that thrilled from the trailer, and the tv spots just made me more pessimistic. Don't let Warner's bad marketing discourage you from what is one helluva brilliant, brutal, and contemporary film with a classic feel. The Departed is a modern American classic that shows Scorsese doing what he does best. For some reason I wasn't expecting much from this film after I was disapointed with veteran De Palma's recent effort, but I am so glad I was wrong. The Aviator was good, Gangs Of New York was great, The Departed is amazing. Marty, baby, we love ya!