The Departed (2006)


One of the greatest gangster movies ever made. As the stakes are raised even higher, the battle between the police and a crime boss escalates as both rush to find an undercover agent in their organisations.

Beware the following will contain plot detail.

5 stars. 10/10. 100%. We live in a world of ratings, so what do they actually mean? Are all films that reach the limit all equally good, or are they as good as they get? Allow me to dodge those difficult questions but note that The Departed has probably achieved each of those ratings at some point.

Set in Boston, Sullivan (Damon) is a police officer who from a young age has been a pawn in Costello’s (Nicholson) prolific crime syndicate. The other half of the story follows Costigan (DiCaprio), a new recruit to the state police department, who is forcibly pushed to go deep undercover and infiltrate them. This is a long and gruesome process involving time in jail and a torturous initiation. With both leaking vital information, it soon becomes apparent that there is a traitor in each of their midst. Naturally when there’s someone undercover this creates a great deal of tension, with two, it becomes excruciating.

On display are the straight parallels between the lives of Costigan and Sullivan as they are each other’s counterparts. However, an asymmetry is also drawn in that Sullivan only faces jail time yet Costigan is paranoid and fearful because, if found out, he’s at the mercy of the ruthless Costello.  There are numerous layers to the plot and to further complicate matters, Sullivan’s girlfriend is Costigan’s psychologist wrapping everything else in a love triangle.

This is one where you need to be switched on to truly follow and with a fast-paced ending, it’s demanding to keep up with. Thankfully, Damon and DiCaprio are excellent in the lead roles and help ensure the viewer is never lost. What sticks with me is how incredibly gripping it was. Among all the hard-hitting thrillers I have watched, I can only recall wanting to look away from the screen twice. Once was during The Departed but still my eyes were glued. Somewhat paradoxically, compared to most 5 star films, The Departed is on a whole level above them yet it would be sacrilege to give it the same rating. This is a case where 5 stars is not enough.


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