An intricate ballet of bullets in Bahston, “The Departed” gives us Leonardo DiCaprio’s greatest performance, Martin Scorsese’s best directing since “Goodfellas,” and an immaculately weaved story that’s relentlessly entertaining from its first shot to its final dropkick.
In 2006 Boston, Frank Costello reigns supreme. He’s 70 but with the libido of a 17-year-old, a hedonistic crime lord who giggles at point black murders and always packs a 9mm pistol and a 12-inch-dildo in his coat pockets. Frank is childless (that he knows of), making Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) the closest thing he has to a son. Frank maneuvers Sullivan to do his bidding at a young age, with Sullivan becoming a high-ranking police officer just to tip off Costello about shakedowns, warrants, or brouhaha spreading his way.
But Costello also adopts a second spiritual son in Bill Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio), a straight-shooter from a down-and-out neighborhood who’s coaxed into being a police rat in Costello’s unit. They’re long lost brothers by bad blood, sine and cosine curves who’s intersection is marred by destruction. Sullivan is treated to the finer things in life while Costigan is desperate for any sort of personal connection.
They also love the same woman, Madolyn (Vera Farmiga), a decorated psychiatrist with an inkling that something might not be protocol with her policed beau. And as Bill and Sullivan unearth every manhole to find their precious rat, while growing closer and apart from Madalyn, their lives are inverted with Costello sitting at the precipice of crime and civility.
The film is relentlessly entertaining, easy-to-follow but still remarkably intricate, like a simple haiku that evokes an existential angst that shouldn’t be found in only 17 syllables. The performances are sublime, an ensemble cast of every fast-talking white guy from the 90s (except Ben Affleck) where everyone still has something meaningful to say. Scorsese’s close-up’s and contained action, Thelma Schoomaker’s quick cuts, and “The Departed’s” immaculate soundtrack are nothing new but still utterly delightful.
It’s the kind of movie that makes filmmaking look easy, where two 12-year-olds will watch “The Departed” and immediately want to write their own deft, inter-layered cops and robbers tale immediately afterwards. But “The Departed” succeeds because it does not strive to be overly complex or esoteric. Its relatively simplicity amplified by its ferocity, an elementary Aesop’s fable with blood stained on its page.