What do you get when you mix A-list actors, a highly acclaimed director and a script adapted from a smash hit in Hong Kong? The makings of a great movie. The Departed had everything in its favor to make an unforgettable thriller. It’s not a decisively bad movie—the characters are well developed, and the story is intriguing. Yet somehow it leaves a bad taste in your mouth because of how the plot seems to unravels and the end of the film is nothing more than a clichéd blood bath. It almost made me question why the story was even told in the first place.
The Departed is a brutal thriller about two double-agent cops working to catch and aid (respectively) the most powerful mob boss in Boston. Jack Nicholson is in a comfortable role as the creepy bad guy and, surprisingly, Matt Damon plays a decent villain. Leonardo Dicaprio plays the trapped hero and is the only one the audience can cheer for.
As you’d expect from a crime thriller, The Departed has plenty of twists and turns—but the ending was a disappointment. It was reminiscent of a Shakespearian tragedy until a clichéd twist left me shaking my head. It felt like the writers had grown tired of their own story and just wanted to end it. I’m not entirely familiar with the original Hong Kong version (Infernal Affairs), but I’m surprised director Martin Scorsese didn’t feel cheated by the blunt closure.
The film was a great illustration of the principle, "You can’t serve two masters." Both rats find out that they can’t walk the line without risk and loss. How can you serve both good and evil? Sooner or later one side will overcome. In the bleakness of drug-smuggling, money-worshipping and violence, evil is the dominant power. The trouble is, if you want to overcome evil, you can’t participate in it.
The Departed looked like an exciting suspense story. It seemed like it had deep themes. The film confronted the ideas of corruption and greed, but didn’t fully follow through on its own material to the end. I couldn’t help but leaving thinking, “So what? It’s just another bloody mob movie.”