The trailers for Martin Scorsese's "The Departed" might lead you to believe that it's yet another goomba festival from Scorsese Inc. I'm happy to say it's better than that. Comparisons to "Goodfellas" and "Casino" notwithstanding, it has a verve and texture all its own. It also has, courtesy of William Monahan, some of the best dialogue that Scorsese has ever worked with.
Unlike Scorsese's other gangster pictures, "The Departed" works both sides of the fence. It's about both crooks and cops, although some of the cops are, technically, crooks. And the setting is Boston rather than New York, which means that everybody in the cast gets to try out their accents. (A few, like Mark Wahlberg and Matt Damon, already have them.)
Damon plays Colin Sullivan, a south Boston kid who, early on, was befriended by Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson), head of the Irish mob, and now acts as his mole inside the Massachusetts State Police Department's elite special investigations unit. Leonardo DiCaprio's Billy Costigan, an unruly cadet in the police force, is picked by Captain Queenan (Martin Sheen) and his bullying aide Sergeant Dignam (Mark Wahlberg) to infiltrate Costello's mob. They even put him in jail for a time in order to bolster his bona fides with the bad guys.
But who are the bad guys exactly?
Much is made in this movie about the tissue-paper-thin morality of law enforcement and the empathy between thugs and police. Sullivan and Costigan, raised in the same tough neighborhood but unaware of each other, are practically twins. Both are impostors living double lives. Unbeknownst to each other, they even share the same woman, a psychiatrist, played by Vera Farmiga, whose curiosity overrides her clinical instincts.