Monday, November 06, 2006

4 stars to 'The Departed'

The name 'Martin Scorcese' was a familiar one but to be honest, I had never actually seen a film made by him. "The Departed" was a first and it certainly won't be the last.

It's a film which takes the movie-set-in-a-mafia milieu to a new level. Instead of a cops vs robbers story, it's a tale of two cops - Billy Costigan (Leonardo di Caprio) and Jack Sullivan (Matt Damon).

Costigan is the 'good guy' who is convinced that he will serve his country better by getting chucked out of the police force. Thing is, he has the perfect 'family background' - crime inclined cousins and an uncle who once worked for mafia boss Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson). So he makes a convincing entry into life on the other side of the tracks, although actually operating as an undercover.

Sullivan, on the other hand, appears to be the classic good guy but is not. He owes a childhood debt to Costello, who was 'like a father' to him. When he joins the state police force, his allegiance is clearly elsewhere.

The fun begins when both sides realise there is a mole on the other side but don't know who. There are many classic 'Hindi movie' moments like for example, both guys falling for the same girl. And Sullivan being made in charge of finding the mole in the police department a.k.a. himself!

Complication: The only two people who know Costigan's real identity are Captain Queenan (Martin Sheen) and Sergeant Dignam (Mark Wahlberg). One dies, the other resigns. Our man is out in the cold, without an identity. Without giving anything more away, lemme just say you will be hooked to the twists and turns in the film.

There is a lot of violence, throughout. The scene where Costello and his men break Costigan's already broken arm to check if he is carrying a wire is truly chilling.
Even then, the final 10 minutes come as a surprise although considering the title of the movie- they shouldn't!

Concepts like 'good' and 'evil' get turned around on their head and in such a scenario, you can scarcely expect a happy ending.

The director's touch is evident - the film remains taut and never get cheesy. Leonardo 'babyface' di Caprio has grown up - and how. I can finally think of him without automatically associating the word 'titanic'. Mark Wahlberg as the foul-mouthed sergeant is extremely good and Jack Nicholson, of course, outstanding. Actually, all of the actors are excellent.

The most interesting thing is that 'The Departed' is a remake of the Hong Kong film 'Infernal Affairs'. Yet, those who have seen both say there definitely is 'originality' in this version. Looks like Scorcese is walking a path similar to that of Indian directors remaking old classics like Don, Umrao Jaan etc.

'The Departed' is of course a cross cultural transplantation but the trend is to take an idea and refine it/ give it your own unique touch. For example, setting the story in Boston, with an Irish mafia - as opposed to New York and its done-to-death Italian gangs. Of course, there will be people who prefer this or that version .

The point is, we could well have an Indian director also doing the honours.. coz neither the Chinese or English versions will reach the Indian masses.

An aside
I happened to see 'The Departed' on a Saturday night at Cathay Cine Leisure. The ticket at this upscale theatre on Singapore's Orchard Road cost $ 9 SGD. ie approximately Rs 250. This is the same price at which you'd get a ticket at INOX or PVR on a Saturday nite.

But consider the fact that 1 Singapore Dollar = 28 Indian rupees and you realise prices are shockingly high in India. The mall-multiplex culture is in fact fast
becoming a 'dollar economy'. Whatever supposed cost advantage is becoming less attractive as we expect to lead 'international quality' lifestyles on rupee salaries in India. Which means compensations are rapidly galloping..

The trouble is that while we may feel we are in London or Singapore while on the plush carpeted hallways of an INOX where a popcorn and Coke costs Rs 75 ($3 SGD), the moment we step out of the cocoon we are back to the Indian side of the economy. Potholed roads, population pressure and non-functioning essential services (we have a 3 hour daily power cut in New Bombay!) and of course, people, just too many people everywhere.

So yes, when more than one friend in Singapore mentioned India has beome 'expensive', I would agree. A parallel 'cheap' India still exists but those of us with the right education and employabliity are rapidly distancing ourselves from it. When was the last time you went to buy wholesale to save a few bucks. Or shopped at the chaotic Dadar market?

The upside is, Singapore will not seem 'expensive' - it did when I visited 5 years ago. Now, I am so inured to spending 200 bucks on taxi in Mumbai or 500 rupees on a meal the mental conversion calculator does not send up red flags that often!

Of course, I am sure the same would not apply if I went to Europe... which I plan to next year. Sigh!

P.S. Am back in India and will be posting as usual, interspersed with some more 'Snapshots from Singapore'.


  1. u had nothing to say about Matt Damon!!!

    review the movie again, coz Matt Damon is one of the finest actors around.

    the cost of watching a hindi movie in US is 10$ and the theatre is never as grand as the PVRs WAVEs of our land.

    Glad u r bac :-)

  2. Strongly recommend the following movies of Martin Scorsese:
    1.The Aviator
    2.Gangs of New York
    3.Raging Bull
    4.Cape Fear.

    If you are a movie buff then dont miss Daniel Day Lewis' movies (The Butcher in Gangs of New York), especially -In the name of the father


  3. "Complication: The only two people who know Costigan's real identity are Captain Queenan (Martin Sheen) and Sergeant Dignam (Mark Wahlberg). One dies, the other resigns."

    Haven't seen the movie yet... but looks like its got a Don angle to it as well :-)

  4. Anonymous5:38 PM

    Great movie! I saw it the day it came out. Definitely on the top of the list of DVDs I want to buy

  5. The movie is awesome but not as good as Goodfellas. Every single actor in Departed had their moments to shine. Very well done.

    Like the first poster I too think that you should rewrite your review on this film. Damon was electrifying. It was his idea to make his character Collin Sullivan an impotent man and he rewrote his part of the script as it was poorly written. He added soo much to the integrity of this film and you have nothing to say about him. Did we watch the same film.
    Dicaprio provided the emotion, Nicholson the fear, Walhberg and Baldwin the humor, Sheen the tenderness, Farmiga the sex appeal and Damon the hatred, bitterness and the drive to see who wins in the end. How could you forget to review him? or should I assume that your review is incomplete?

  6. Anonymous7:41 PM

    Scorsese is a gr8 director i must say ,followed him from the movie aviator and i think it was really good ,hope to catch this movie soon after ur review

  7. It is a very good movie. If you look at the cast, most of them are established actors and expected to do well. But the pic of the lot was DeCaprio. He is slowly getting out of that choclate boy image of his. BTW, watsup with your post? Were you writing a review for The Departed, or were you comparing Singapore and India? It is almost as if you started off at the north pole and ended up at the south pole, on this post.

  8. I saw it on the day it was released here in the US (over a month ago), and came home and immediately wrote about it...

  9. what's up rashmi, this entry's lacking the usual sting found in other entries. singapur mein shanti? interesting tidbits on departed... scorcese looking to HK for inspiration is a compliment about the HK film industry. only a matter of time till bollywood picks up the departed. a multi-starrer superhit. solo-hits are apparently 'rare', unless a movie is powered by SRK or johnny lever

  10. Im sure you are not really a movies fan, and certainly not a Martin Scorsese fan. If you have not watched Goodfellas yet, you have definitely missed something.

  11. Watched it. An absolute classic. Enjoyed the theme, the story, screen play and the cast. Even Di Caprio can act.

  12. Completely agree on the dollar economy part of India..Prices in parts of Mumbai have reached ridiculous levels..the total cost of watching a movie (ticket,drinks,travel,etc) is cheaper than a trip to inox from say parel.

  13. Did you mean Europe or the UK? In either case, bring money in buckets, given the current £/ Rs conversion ratio and the fact that Britain is the most expensive country you would ever visit, barring Norway. It will suddenly put other countries' prices in perspective.

    If in southern Europe, whatever you bring, keep redundancy. Purse-snatching is an art form in Spain and Italy. Sorry for generalising but few have escaped it in my knowledge.

    UK cinema tickets in London are about £9-12, and tube travel the most expensive per mile anywhere in the world and walking IS faster and cheaper. That said, all our museums's resident collections are free, and some travelling expos charge but not a lot. Discounts for students with STA cards, old people and I am sure journalists are available.

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