Martin Scorsese, Jack Nicholson and Martin Sheen are Hollywood royalty. They are the old guard of Tinseltown; three legendary men who helped shape the town and bring value to those large white letters that overlook the City of Angels. Jack Nicholson is simply one of the greatest actors we have seen and at seventy years old, he has slowed down, but he has not disappeared. Martin Scorsese is a director who brings poetry to violence and finally earned the golden Oscar statue he has deserved for decades. With six nominations, "The Departed" finally brought this legendary director to the podium. It is a pretty safe bet to assume that any film involving either of these two men is going to be worth watching. Martin Sheen may be responsible for Charlie and Emilio, but the veteran actor has found great success in both television and film and his participation in "Apocalypse Now" is the high point of this hard working actor.
Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Wahlberg are the new breed of legends looking to carry on the tradition of entertaining audiences with a high level of talent after the two men mentioned above finally retire from the spotlight. There are no questions as to whether or not DiCaprio is going to be one of the great ones. He has turned his back on making the big-budget cash cows that awaited him after the success of "Titanic." He chooses roles that require certain acting chops and he chooses roles that mean something to him. He especially enjoys roles where Scorsese will be behind the camera. Matt Damon has taken some criticism for being a young actor with handsome looks and an ability to land big roles. After his breakthrough film "Good Will Hunting," Damon has had his hits and misses, but he is going to be around for a very long time. Mark Wahlberg started his ascent as Marky Mark. Leaving the Funky Bunch behind, his Boston bred toughness has allowed him to become one of the premiere tough-guy actors in the business.
With the old guard and the new soldiers joining forces in Martin Scorsese's absolutely riveting film "The Departed," this Oscar winning Best Picture film is more like an All-Star game where the veterans are passing the baton. Nicholson, Sheen, Damon, DiCaprio and Walberg are all A-List actors and involvement from two of them would have allowed "The Departed" to be well casted. With the five of them, this is easily one of best cast of actors gathered in a very long time. And if this wasn't enough, Alec Baldwin is thrown in for good measure. When you factor in Oscar winning director Martin Scorsese guiding this smorgasbord of A-list actors and consider William Monahan brought home his own Oscar for his adapted screenplay; you just know you are sitting down to watch a film that was well deserving of every accolade thrown its way and a picture that will be just as important twenty years from now, when we are looking at the new breed of actors who will be replacing DiCaprio, Damon and Wahlberg.
"The Departed" has Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) graduating from the Massachusetts State Police Academy. Costigan's uncle was not the most desirable character and when he interviews for a job position with Staff Sergeant Dignam (Mark Wahlberg) and Captain Queenan (Martin Sheen), Costigan is told that he won't make the elite police force without accepting a position to go deep undercover and try to bring down mob boss Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson). This is a dangerous job for Costigan, as Costello has no problem making his problems go away with a bullet and he has connections throughout the police force. Sullivan has scored some of the highest marks of his graduating class. However, he has been molded since childhood to be a mole by Costello. He is quickly hired by the Special Investigation Unit that has Costigan undercover, and Sullivan becomes Costello's eyes and ears inside of the S.I.U. force. Neither of the young police officers know of the other and when they learn that a plant is within each other's people, they must race to uncover the identity of the other.
The story of "The Departed" is among the best I've ever seen and combined with the talented young actors and Jack, this is perhaps the best film to come out of Hollywood this decade. There are various levels of complexity that finds alliances tested and at numerous times, both Costigan and Sullivan nearly become identified, but cleverly escape detection. With Scorsese's guiding hand, DiCaprio and Damon shine. Scorsese is the expert when it comes to films about organized crime and the fight against it and "The Departed" could not have had a better director for the story. DiCaprio can play the kind and innocent young man one moment, but he has a capability to show a dark and dangerous side. Damon grew up in Boston and possesses many of the same traits. Both are remarkably handsome actors and both are very skilled. Wahlberg is the tough-talking Sergeant who is responsible for the men he places in dangerous situations. Wahlberg is a bona-fide tough guy from the streets of Boston and he finds himself on the other side of the law under Scorsese. Does anybody even need to say Jack Nicholson is incredible? Rhetorical. Implied. Jack is the king of cool and the baddest of the bad.
"The Departed" is presented in a 2.40:1 widescreen transfer that is mastered with a VC-1 codec at 1080p resolution. Now that the technicals are out of the way, I will simply say that "The Departed" looks almost perfect through most of its running time. The level of detail is quite strong and textures and patterns are perfectly handled. There is one or two minor moments when Nicholson is on screen during a dark scene and the level of detail takes on some muddiness, but this represents about five minutes of the 151 minute long film. Detail is simply very good. Death scenes, for some reason, are among the highest detail moments. Just take a look at the pebbles when the dead girl falls funny. It is stunning. Colors are also rendered with perfection. Every color of the rainbow is represented in the film and director of photography Michael Ballhaus brings a bright and natural look to the film. Blacks are deep and true and if it weren't for the rare scenes where detail drops, I would have had not complaints whatsoever.
Uncompressed PCM 5.1 sound. Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. This is the first time I've been able to write a review for a Warner Bros. Blu-ray release and been able to proudly proclaim that the coveted Uncompressed PCM 5.1 soundtrack is supported. I'm quite happy about this fact and thankful that the Blu-ray was provided with a next-generation sound format after the HD-DVD release featured a Dolby TrueHD soundtrack. English, French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes are tossed in as well, and the Dolby Digital mix sounds good, but the PCM mix is exactly where it's at. Unfortunately, "The Departed" is not the most impressive sounding film. It is good, but it is the least impressive of any of the films released in either Dolby TrueHD or Uncompressed PCM. Bass is deep and impressive, though sparingly used. Dialogue lives nicely in the center channel and there is good separation between the channels. The rear surrounds are quiet for very long periods and "The Departed" suffers in not being very enveloping. The mix is clear and it is clean, but this is a dialogue heavy film with background music and occasional bouts of gunfire to break up its tame nature.
"The Departed" features Pop-Up menus that allow the bonus featured to be browsed while watching the film. HD-DVD has been doing this for some time and Blu-ray is finally learning some of the same tricks. Regardless, "The Departed" is an award winning and important film, but without any great wealth of supplemental material. What it does have is good, just not lengthy. The 9 Additional Scenes with Introduction by Director Martin Scorsese (19:24) are MPEG-2/480p segments where Scorsese educates the viewer on exactly what a deleted scene is. These scenes add minor pieces of character building through there extended moments. The short documentary Stranger than Fiction: The True Story of Whitey Bulger, Southie and the Departed (21:07) looks at Whitey Bulger, the man whom Jack Nicholson's character was based on and the criminal activity in the Southie section of Boston. While short, this was a very nice little feature to watch and seeing the genesis of the film was quite interesting. The second and final documentary, Crossing Criminal Cultures (24:08) looks at the mob boss films created by Martin Scorsese and look at how "The Departed" is part of a class that includes "Casino" and "Goodfellas." With more interviews and feeling promotional, this was interesting, but not nearly as good as the first documentary. The list of features concludes with a Theatrical Trailer.
I absolutely love "The Departed" and this was one of my favorite films of 2006. I'm not going to say it was my absolute favorite film, because it is just to hard to decide between the two or three others I loved. If I had to choose just one, this might be it. Martin Scorsese finally won a Best Director Oscar with this picture and he deserved every ounce if the gold statue. The cast he assembled is a cast that other actors would dream of or perhaps offer their first born for. Nicholson, Damon, Wahlberg, Sheen and DiCaprio is an amazing combination of talent. This story kept me glued to the tube the entire time and I was mesmerized by its great filmmaking and stunning visuals. The sound quality wasn't quite up to par with the visual quality, but the Uncompressed PCM 5.1 mix still sounded quite good. The features run for just over an hour, but I imagine a bigger and better release will one day see light of day. With no commentary and nothing overly special, "The Departed" could have used a better selection of value added content. This is still a must have title for the film and the actors alone, so this is a case where extra material is just icing on the cake.