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36. EMPIRE MAGAZINE GREATEST: The Departed

August 14, 2018

Director: Martin Scorsese
Screenplay: William Monahan
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Ray Winstone, Vera Farmiga, Anthony Anderson, Alec Baldwin
Runtime: 150 Minutes

 

Original UK Release: 2006

 

★★★★☆

 

Adapted from Wai-keung Lau and Alan Mak’s Hong Kong series, Infernal Affairs, Martin Scorsese’s The Departed is a perfect depiction of how you should intelligently adapt a foreign feature for a western audience, even if the film is an entirely different beast.

 

Scorsese works from William Monahan's deceptively clever screenplay. The change of scenery from the modernised landscapes of Hong Kong, to the rustic and rundown environments of Boston, endows the film with a new sense of geographical identity and social function that somehow still feels shockingly fresh, with time afforded to the Irish-American heritage of the characters.

 

The remainder of the films approach and edge is rather stripped bare, but in a really good sense. This is a lean, tight drama with really engaging conflict and characters’ that doesn’t require a great deal more than what is already presented – it just helps that Scorsese’s filmmaking choices manage to enforce it so well. His direction here is fantastic, especially regarding the action showing a further technical evolution with a more tactile approach, which still keeps with the engaging spirit of the original film and marriages with Scorsese’s usual camera, framing and editing techniques.

 

DiCaprio and Damon are fucking superb leads, DiCaprio has rarely been as intensely sober and grievance riddled as he is here, while Damon underplays with a great deal of security and the backstabbing sly mannerisms of a sociopath. Baldwin and Nicholson are on typically great form, with the later chewing the fabric of the scenery at time with brawny confidence for a performer this late into his career. There’s also a surprisingly fabulous performance from Mark Wahlberg, while Vera Farmiga is great even given her somewhat limited role.

 

Typified by themes of deception, allegiance and identity, it’s no wonder that it finally got Scorsese the academy’s attention.

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