I saw a screener of this way before it came out, but since it was in a professional capacity I thought better of posting about it on the leaky internets. Well, now I’ve seen it in a major theater with an audience that was very much into it, I love it even more.
The Departed has at least three scenes that are destined to become classics in the Scorsese ganster cannon, and many other ones that any other director would die to own.
1. The discombobulated interrogation of Costigan by Costello. Jack Nicholson didn’t tell anyone he was going to pull a gun in that scene, he just did. It made for one of those Scorsese found moments that he integrates so well into otherwise very calculated scenes.
2. The climactic confrontation at 344 Wash. ‘Nuff said.
3. The stakeout scene, with its many layers of mole hunting combined with the jingoist ravings of Costello as he does the microchip deal (“No ticky, no laundry”). A truly excellent piece of drama.
Of course the heart of the plot is taken wholesale from Infernal Affairs. It is by comparing the two that you see what clever dialogue (kudos to screenwriter William Monaghan) and clever directing can do to enhance a great popcorn thriller story.
I think the most legitimate criticism I’ve heard of the movie is that it lacks emotion. It’s true, with perhaps the exception of Mark Wahlberg’s Dignam, all the characters are frosty cold. To me, this is not a big sticking point. The characters were all well drawn if guarded with their emotions. If “the Irish are impervious to psychoanalysis” then it is not the fault of the movie that the characters don’t say what they are feeling more often. This movie is an elaborate poker game: the fun is guessing the motives of each of the characters, predicting the cards they hold. In the end, the audience wins big.
ADDITIONAL WORTHWHILE READING: David Bordwell’s in depth analysis and comparison to Infernal Affairs