The Departed has a well-deserved reputation as one of the best crime thrillers of all time. It tells the story of an investigation into the biggest mobster in Boston, Frank Costello, based loosely on the infamous Boston mobster and FBI informant, Whitey Bulger.
In the film, the Massachusetts State Police (they didn’t want to use the FBI lest the trailer get banned from Facebook) have a case on Costello and send a trooper in as an undercover to infiltrate the gang. Little do the cops know that Costello had the same idea and has put one of his own into the Massachusetts State Police. The dynamic of the two separate undercover operations playing off each other makes for great drama and a thrilling film.
(Whitey Bulger’s final federal mugshot — he was murdered in prison in 2018)
Technically, this movie is a remake of a 2002 Hong Kong film released in the U.S. as Infernal Affairs – marking the second remake of director Martin Scorsese’s career (the first being the creepy Cape Fear ).
As usual, Scorsese is able to gather an all-star cast of actors. Jack Nicholson, all greasy leers and arched eyebrows, is fully reptilian as crime boss Frank Costello. Matt Damon plays Sgt. Colin Sullivan (the mole inside the Massachusetts State Police) as an earnest all-American, setting off his bad-guy undercover role nicely.
Leonardo DiCaprio, the undercover cop, is an effective counterpoint to Damon, all angst and internal conflict. The audience is left wondering how long DiCaprio’s Billy Costigan can last before he either breaks or is killed.
The film effectively shows the conflict that can arise in a high stakes, long-term case. A group of cops working for months or even years on a big, pressured investigation can have its problems; there can be resentments, accusations, even fistfights in the squad room (we can’t say we haven’t had to break up a few of those over the years…).
A lack of trust and the stress of knowing that a fellow officer’s life is on the line is a potent dynamic in policework, and it’s accurately portrayed here. The supporting cast members — Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, and Alec Baldwin — do a nice job making their characters fully believable (if not always likeable…).
You can check this one out streaming on the TBS or TNT apps or rent it through most streaming apps such as AppleTV or Amazon Video. Or check out the JustWatch site to find current updates on where to watch any film or show.