Still in Orlando, and a risky move to try watching a 2 hour, 39 min Scorsese drama. But apart from a couple chatting and a few loud shrieks at violent moments, the audience were fairly well behaved. Probably all tourists.
Anyhoo, this is Scorsese’s third film with Leonardo DiCaprio, after Gangs of New York and The (shamefully-overlooked-by-the-Oscars-in-favour-of-bloody-squinty-Eastwood) Aviator. The pair seem to gel, bringing out the best in Leo, who’s done remarkably well in getting away from his boyish Titanic persona and bringing out a rougher yet vulnerable edge. Along with Leo, The Departed boasts an impressive cast; Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Martin Sheen, Alec Baldwin and Mark Wahlberg (with silly hair).
The plot is sly. DiCaprio is an undercover cop, who’s infiltrated Nicholson’s organised crime gang. Damon is part of Nicholson’s crew, but he works as a high ranking police officer. When word gets out on each side that there’s a rat in their midst, the danger to each rat increases, as does their desperation to avoid capture and track each other down. In typical Scorsese style, the characters are gradually etched out, deepened and developed. There’s no hurry, but it never drags. The story sucks you in, envelops you, so that when tension starts to build you really feel it, right in your gut.
The performances were spot on. DiCaprio knitting that brow of his into tortured angst, Damon cold, calculating and refreshingly dangerous, Nicholson craggy, bonkers - as you’d expect, really - but he’s held in control enough to create a menacing mob boss rather than a cartoon one. There’s the theme of identity as the two rats struggle to retain a sense of self throughout their double lives, and some achingly nerve wracking moments as each rat gets closer to the truth.
It’s a shame that the carefully paced story gets a little unravelled towards the end. A lot seems to suddenly happen in quick bursts, and it doesn’t completely satisfy given the brilliant first two hours. But regardless, this is still a great film, with plenty of re-watch potential. It won’t be a big award winner, but what do they know? It’s getting a CF0 with an extra point for well developed characters, and another for being a master-class in acting and directing, bringing it to CF2. Better than any Oscar.