The Departed

The Departed is a 2006 American crime thriller film directed by Martin Scorsese and written by William Monahan.[2] It is a remake of the 2002 Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs and is also loosely based on the real-life Boston Winter Hill Gang; the character Colin Sullivan is based on the corrupt FBI agent John Connolly, while the character Frank Costello is based on Irish-American gangster Whitey Bulger.[3][4][5] The Departed stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, and Mark Wahlberg, with Martin Sheen, Ray Winstone, Vera Farmiga, and Alec Baldwin in supporting roles.

The film takes place in Boston. Irish Mob boss Francis "Frank" Costello (Nicholson) plants Colin Sullivan (Damon) as a mole within the Massachusetts State Police; simultaneously, the police assign undercover state trooper William "Billy" Costigan (DiCaprio) to infiltrate Costello's crew. When both sides realize the situation, Sullivan and Costigan each attempt to discover the other's identity before they are found out.

The Departed was a critical and commercial success, and won several awards, including four Oscars at the 79th Academy Awards, for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Film Editing, becoming Scorsese's first win for Best Director;[6] Wahlberg was also nominated for Best Supporting Actor.

In South Boston in 1986, Colin Sullivan is introduced to Irish Mob boss Frank Costello. Twenty years later, Sullivan has been groomed as a mole inside the Massachusetts State Police and joins the Special Investigations Unit, led by Captain Ellerby. Another recruit, Billy Costigan Jr., is approached by Captain Queenan and Staff Sergeant Dignam to go undercover and infiltrate Costello's crew. They set up a cover; he serves time in jail on a phony charge and eventually joins Costello's crew. Ellerby informs Special Investigations that only Queenan and Dignam will know their operatives' names and that Costello's crew has stolen computer microprocessors to sell to a Chinese gang. Due to being undercover, Costigan's emotional state declines, but Queenan and Dignam plead with him to keep his cover.

Sullivan begins a romance with police psychiatrist Madolyn Madden, whom Costigan sees professionally as part of his probation. The MSP prepares to catch Costello selling the microprocessors, but the deal takes place off-camera, allowing everyone to escape. Costello realizes there is a rat and tasks Sullivan to uncover his identity; Sullivan asks for information to cross-reference his crew members in the MSP database. Meanwhile, Costigan learns that Costello is an FBI informant, and Costello accuses Costigan of being a rat, which he denies. Costigan shares his discovery with Queenan and warns that Costello is aware of a mole in his crew.

Costigan follows Costello into a theater and witnesses him giving Sullivan an envelope. Queenan instructs Costigan to get a visual ID of Sullivan before making the arrest but is unable to see his face; Sullivan realizes that he is being followed and prepares to stab Costigan but kills another person by accident and flees. He then realizes Costigan was captured on a security camera and tries cross-referencing officers but cannot recognize him.

Queenan advises Sullivan to follow Costello to find his rat, and Costigan calls Queenan to meet while Sullivan has Queenan tailed. When Costello's men arrive, Queenan helps Costigan escape before confronting them and being thrown to his death. Angered by Queenan's murder, Dignam attacks Sullivan and resigns. Sullivan also learns that Costello is an FBI informant and decides to help the MSP catch him. With Costigan's help, Costello is tailed to a cocaine drop-off, where a gunfight erupts, killing most of Costello's crew. Sullivan confronts Costello, who admits to being an informant, and fatally shoots him.

As Costigan goes to Sullivan to reveal his undercover status, he notices Costello's envelope on Sullivan's desk and realizes Sullivan is the rat. Sullivan then erases Costigan's records from police computers. Costigan hands Madden, who has moved in with Sullivan, an envelope and instructs her to open it if something happens to him. She opens the letter containing tapes Costello made of himself with Sullivan, listens to them, and leaves Sullivan.

Costigan arranges to meet Sullivan on a rooftop, then arrests him. Costigan calls Trooper Brown, a friend from the academy, to substantiate his identity, but Brown pulls a gun on Costigan when he arrives, unsure who is telling the truth. Costigan says he has evidence tying Sullivan to Costello, and Brown lets him go down the elevator. Upon reaching the lobby, Costigan and Brown are killed by Trooper Barrigan, who reveals himself to be another mole working for Costello, before being shot dead by Sullivan. Later, Sullivan returns to his apartment, where Dignam is waiting. He fatally shoots Sullivan in the head.

In January 2003, Warner Bros., producer Brad Grey, and actor/producer Brad Pitt bought the rights to remake the Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs (2002) from Media Asia for $1.75 million.[7][8] William Monahan was secured as a screenwriter, and later Martin Scorsese, who admired Monahan's script, came on board as director.[8][4][9]

In March 2004, United Press International announced that Scorsese would be remaking Infernal Affairs and setting it in Boston, and Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt were slated to star.[10] Pitt, tentatively scheduled to play Sullivan, later declined to play the role, saying a younger actor should play the part; he decided to produce the film instead.[9] Scorsese's associate Kenneth Lonergan suggested Matt Damon, who grew up in Boston, for the part of Sullivan, and Scorsese asked Jack Nicholson to play Costello.[4]

Nicholson wanted the film to have "something a little more" than the usual gangster film, and screenwriter Monahan came up with the idea of basing the Costello character on Irish-American gangster Whitey Bulger. This gave the screenplay an element of realism—and an element of dangerous uncertainty, because of the wide-ranging carte blanche the FBI gave Bulger in exchange for revealing information about fellow gangsters.[4] A technical consultant on the film was Tom Duffy, who had served three decades on the Boston Police Department, particularly as an undercover detective investigating the Irish mob.[11][12]

The Departed was officially greenlit by Warner Bros. in early 2005 and began shooting in the spring of 2005.[8] Some of the film was shot on location in Boston. For budgetary and logistical reasons many scenes, in particular interiors, were shot in locations and sets in New York City, which had tax incentives for filmmakers that Boston at the time did not.[4][13]

Film critic Stanley Kauffmann said that for The Departed, Scorsese "was apparently concerned with the idea of identity, one of the ancient themes of drama, and how it affects one’s actions, emotions, self-knowledge, even dreams." Kaufmann, however, did not find the theme conveyed with particular effectiveness in the film.[14] Film critic Roger Ebert compared Costigan and Sullivan's seeking of approval from those they are deceiving to Stockholm syndrome.[15] Ebert also noted the themes of Catholic guilt.[15]

In the final scene, a rat is seen on Sullivan's window ledge. Scorsese acknowledges that while it is not meant to be taken literally, it somewhat symbolizes the "quest for the rat" in the film and the strong sense of distrust among the characters, much like post-9/11 U.S. The window view behind the rat is a nod to gangster films like Little Caesar (1931), Scarface (1932), and White Heat (1949).[16]

Throughout the film, Scorsese uses an "X" motif to foreshadow death in a manner similar to Howard Hawks' film Scarface (1932). Examples include (but are not limited to) shots of cross-beam supports in an airport walkway when Costigan is phoning Sgt. Dignam, the taped windows of the building Queenan enters before being thrown to his death, behind Costigan's head in the elevator before he is shot, and the carpeted hallway floor when Sullivan returns to his apartment before being shot by Dignam at the film's end.[17]

Jim Emerson, writing for RogerEbert.com, noted that Nicholson's character, and possibly Damon's, may be read as latently homosexual. In addition to stereotypical gay apparel, Emerson notes that Costello's distaste toward the Catholic Church may relate to his abuse as a child. He also notes that the inspiration for Nicholson's character, James "Whitey" Bulger, was reportedly bisexual.[18]

The Departed grossed $132.4 million in the United States and Canada and $159 million in other territories for a total gross of $291.5 million, against a production budget of $90 million.[1]

The film grossed $26.9 million in its opening weekend, becoming the third Scorsese film to debut at number one.[19] In the following three weeks the film grossed $19 million, $13.5 million and $9.8 million, finishing second at the box office each time, before grossing $7.7 million and dropping to 5th in its fifth week.[20]

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a 90% approval rating based on 282 reviews, with an average rating of 8.30/10. The website's critics consensus reads, "Featuring outstanding work from an excellent cast, The Departed is a thoroughly engrossing gangster drama with the gritty authenticity and soupy morality we come to expect from Martin Scorsese."[21] Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the film a score of 85 out of 100 based on 39 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[22] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A–" on an A+ to F scale.[23]

Entertainment Weekly put it on its end-of-the-decade "Best of" list, saying: "If they're lucky, directors make one classic film in their career. Martin Scorsese has one per decade (Taxi Driver in the '70s, Raging Bull in the '80s, Goodfellas in the '90s). His 2006 Irish Mafia masterpiece kept the streak alive."[24]

Roger Ebert gave the film four stars out of four, praising Scorsese for thematically differentiating his film from the original.[15] Online critic James Berardinelli awarded the film four stars out of four, praising it as "an American epic tragedy." He went on to claim that the film deserves to be ranked alongside Scorsese's past successes, including Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and Goodfellas.[25]

Andrew Lau, the co-director of Infernal Affairs, who was interviewed by Hong Kong newspaper Apple Daily, said: "Of course I think the version I made is better, but the Hollywood version is pretty good too. [Scorsese] made the Hollywood version more attuned to American culture." Andy Lau,[26] one of the main actors in Infernal Affairs, when asked how the movie compares to the original, said: "The Departed was too long and it felt as if Hollywood had combined all three Infernal Affairs movies together."[27] Although Lau said the script of the remake had some "golden quotes", he also felt it had a bit too much profanity. He ultimately rated The Departed 8/10 and said that the Hollywood remake is worth a view, though according to Lau's spokeswoman Alice Tam, he felt that the combination of the two female characters into one in The Departed was not as good as the original storyline.[28]

A few critics were disappointed in the film, including J. Hoberman of the Village Voice, who wrote: "Infernal Affairs was surprisingly cool and effectively restrained for HK action, but Scorsese raises the temperature with every ultraviolent interaction. The surplus of belligerence and slur reach near-Tarantinian levels—appropriate as he’s staking a claim to QT’s turf."[29]

The film appeared on many critics' top ten lists of the best films of 2006.[30] Carrie Rickey of The Philadelphia Inquirer, Joe Morgenstern of The Wall Street Journal, Ruthe Stein of the San Francisco Chronicle, and Steven Rea of The Philadelphia Inquirer named it one of the top ten films of 2006.[30] Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times named it the best film of the 2000s.[31]

At the 64th Golden Globe Awards on January 15, 2007, The Departed won one award for Best Director (Martin Scorsese), while being nominated for five other awards including Best Picture, Best Actor (Leonardo DiCaprio), Best Supporting Actor (Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg), and Best Screenplay (William Monahan).[32]

At the 79th Academy Awards on February 25, 2007, The Departed won four Academy Awards: Best Picture (Graham King), Best Director (Martin Scorsese), Best Film Editing (Thelma Schoonmaker), and Best Adapted Screenplay Writing (William Monahan). Mark Wahlberg was also nominated for the Best Supporting Actor award for his performance, but he lost to Alan Arkin for his role in Little Miss Sunshine.[33][34]

The film marked the first time Scorsese won an Oscar after six previous losses.[35] Many felt that he deserved it years earlier for prior efforts.[36] Some have even gone further, calling it a Lifetime Achievement Award for a lesser film.[37] Scorsese himself joked that he won because: "This is the first movie I've done with a plot."[38]

At the 11th Satellite Awards on December 18, 2006, The Departed won awards for Best Ensemble, Motion Picture, Best Motion Picture, Drama, Best Screenplay – Adapted (William Monahan), and Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Leonardo DiCaprio). In 2008, it was nominated for the American Film Institute Top 10 Gangster Films list[39]

The Departed was released by Warner Home Video on DVD in 2007. The film is available in a single-disc full screen (1.33:1), single-disc widescreen (2.40:1) edition, and 2-disc special edition. The second disc contains deleted scenes; a feature about the influence of New York’s Little Italy on Scorsese; a Turner Classic Movies profile; and a 21-minute documentary titled [40] about the crimes that influenced Scorsese in creating the film, including the story of James "Whitey" Bulger, upon whom Jack Nicholson's character is based.[41]

Stranger Than Fiction: The True Story of Whitey Bulger, Southie and The Departed

The film score for The Departed was written by Howard Shore and performed by guitarists Sharon Isbin, G. E. Smith, Larry Saltzman and Marc Ribot. The score was recorded in Shore's own studio in New York State. The album, The Departed: Original Score, was released December 5, 2006 by New Line, and produced by Jason Cienkus.

Scorsese described the music as "a very dangerous and lethal tango" and cited the guitar-based score of Murder by Contract and the zither in The Third Man as inspiration.[42]

Although many of the key characters in the film are dead by the movie's end, there was a script written for a sequel. This was ultimately shelved due to the expense and Scorsese's lack of interest in creating a sequel.[43]