Tuesday, February 21, 2012

2006 - The Departed

After a whirlwind two weeks in Sydney, I'm back in New York, gearing up for the Oscars this weekend. In preparation, I've selected my predictions for who will take home each award. Let me know how they match up with your picks.

But before this year's Oscars, we continue our look at the race from 5 years ago with another 2006 Best Picture nominee...

The Departed
Martin Scorsese
William Monahan
(based on the film Infernal Affairs, written by Alan Mak and Felix Chong)
Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Ray Winstone, Vera Farmiga, Anthony Anderson, Alec Baldwin, Kevin Corrigan
Academy Awards:
5 nominations
4 wins, including Best Picture and Best Director

The ultimate double cross story, The Departed follows two fresh police academy recruits who operate on separate sides of the law. Colin Sullivan (Damon) is immediately assigned to the unit investigating organised crime, but his loyalty lies with his childhood mentor Frank Costello (Nicholson), the main target of the crime unit. In contrast, Billy Costigan (DiCaprio) is given a long-term undercover assignment to infiltrate Costello's crew, while faithfully reporting his findings to Captain Queenan (Sheen) and Sergeant Dignam (Wahlberg). The two double agents spend a great deal of time attempting to discover the identity of the other, a task made all the more precarious since they are both carrying on a relationship with the same police psychiatrist, Madolyn Madden (Farmiga).

The Departed is about as tight as crime thrillers get. The tension is deliciously high throughout, a necessary consequence of such a brilliantly structured central conceit. Several scenes position the audience precariously on the edge of their seats with their eyes glued to the screen. A particularly novel instance involves a phone call in which both parties remain entirely silent. And just when you get comfortable with the suspense, traditional thriller conventions are then thrown out the window during the Shakespearean tragedy of an ending. No warning is given before characters meet their demises, each of which I still found unexpected even though I'd seen the film before, as paradoxical as that sounds.

Not only does this picture succeed as a thriller, it also explores some poignant psychological issues, the most obvious of which is the human tendency to lie. Trust issues abound among the main characters and keeping secrets is a way of life for most of them. To varying degrees, they all struggle with their deception, perhaps none more so than Madolyn, whose unfaithfulness is of a more intimate nature.

Director Martin Scorsese is in top form here, earning his first (and to date only) Best Director Oscar. He also assembled a dream cast, including the unique personas of Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg and Alec Baldwin, all three delivering humour laden performances. Vera Farmiga is superb in her role, providing some much needed estrogen to an otherwise male-dominated story. And while Wahlberg's was the only Oscar-nominated performance, Matt Damon (pictured) and Leonardo DiCaprio carry the film together extremely well, despite only rarely appearing on screen at the same time.


  1. Even though I have all five of the 2006 Best Picture nominees, I don't think I'll have time to revisit them, and may leave my comments to the selection post. I don't think that watching them again would change my original pick. I've substituted my Departed DVD with the Blu-ray edition, and am trying to make time to watch it. That may give a hint as to my favorite.

    As far as your Oscar picks for this year, I made out my ballot a few days ago, and you are going to have to trust me on this - we match every category with only one exception. I picked Midnight in Paris for Best Original Screenplay. It is hard going against The Artist in any of its categories (and it's my personal choice as well). I'm banking on Woody's rep and his comeback achievement. I really liked the movie. Plus, I can't say The Artist's story is all that original - a little bit of A Star is Born, a little bit of Singin' in the Rain.

    So, I guess we won't tie like we did last year. I guess I should clarify that I never pick the short film categories. I did pretty good trying to see the nominees. The only major films I missed were A Better Life (don't think I'll get the DVD before Sunday), Albert Nobbs and A Separation.

  2. I always doubt my selections when you don't agree with them, Mike :-) I've been reading more and more about Woody's potential win that I'm not so confident of my pick at all any more.

    I got a chance to see the animated and live action shorts at the IFC Center here in New York and I've changed my picks after that (although I'm still torn between Pixar's La Luna and the very moving Fantastic Flying Books).. They're also available on iTunes, so you should check them out. Certainly helps with the Oscar pool :-)

    Happy Oscars Weekend!

  3. So, are you hosting an Oscar party this year? If so, what's on the menu - combination of French, Soul and Hawaiian, with a few Ball Park Hot Dogs on the side? Enjoy the Oscars!!

  4. I guess we didn't do too badly, Matt. Cinematography, Film Editing and Visual Effects were surprises. I should have remembered another statistical hint. When a non-nominated Best Picture candidate goes against a nominated Best Picture candidate in the Visual Effects category, stick with the one that is Best Picture nominated. Translation: Go with Hugo over Rise of the Planet of the Apes. The last time this rule was broken was 1970, when Tora Tora Tora beat Patton for Visual Effects.

    Then there's Meryl Streep. Not a shocker, but I really felt Viola Davis had this one. Maybe The Iron Lady wasn't the strongest of films, but there have been Best Actress winners over the years whose films weren't that great. It was good to see her finally get her third acting award.