Monday, October 09, 2006

The Departed

I almost didn't go to see "The Departed," because a) it promised more violence than I'm comfortable with and b) it's almost 2 1/2 hours long. But outweighing both of those were Martin Scorsese, a brilliant cast, and glowing reviews, and so I went. And I am glad I did. It was a great film, and a great movie-watching experience. I was blown away - as were several people on screen, literally. The violence was jarring for me, but also deeply entwined with the story so I could sit through it. (Still, I imagine in the horrible theater up the street the crowds were hootin' and hollerin' each time a bullet sailed through another head.) But it's a really smart film, with a multi-layered plot to keep you intrigued and multi-layered characters to keep you caring enough to follow it. Jack Nicholson is somewhat of his usual cartoony self, played down just a bit. Matt Damon is really good as a star state police detective with a dark side, and Leonardo DiCaprio is fantastic as his doppelganger, the undercover officer infiltrating the mob. I never doubted he was a strong actor (although I hated, HATED "Titanic"), and he really impressed me here. But what really surprised me was that I found him attractive for the first time - he's always been somewhat of a man-boy with that washed-out look that doesn't do it for me. Maybe he's matured, or maybe the intensity of the role did something to his demeanor, but I caught myself several times thinking, "Now I see what the excitement was about." (Did I mention I hated "Titanic"?)

Can I talk about a movie without a few criticisms? Well, there is one scene that is weirdly out of place, in a film where the rest of the action unfolds in a straightforward and chronological way. We see Matt Damon's character and his girlfriend as she's moving in; they go through a box of her stuff and then the doorbell rings and it's "the movers." And then, several scenes later, she's in her own apartment, packing her stuff to move in with him, including the same box she's already brought to his place. Maybe the scenes were flipped to give a different dramatic resonance to other things that happen in both, and that's not a bad choice, but the loose ends bothered me. I don't think it was that they couldn't reshoot if they needed to, as there are two other scenes with the girlfriend where she clearly is wearing a not-very-good wig. (She's played by Vera Farmiga, who is quite good and who I partly like because I recognize her from nothing, so there is none of the associated baggage that a more high profile actress would bring.)

(Of course it could be that our theater mixed up some reels. I call this the "Natural" effect, based on my seeing the film of that name in college. A group of us went and came home all confused, because what we thought was a mystery had never been resolved in the plot - turns out that we'd missed a key scene because the film broke and when the theater spliced it together, they cut a few minutes of important plot that drove the rest of the movie - or, if you missed it, left you hungering for a reveal that never came.)


Blogger Pynchon said...

I must admit I have got no inclination to see "The Departed", even though generally I like Scorcese's films and this one has got universally good reviews.

Perhaps it is just because it screams "give-me-an-Oscar" from every pore.

6:18 PM  

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