The Departed is to Scorsese what Match Point was to Woody. That is, a return to form. It is a rush of testosterone, with a superlative cast gnashing and vamping its way through a muscular screenplay. This is a two-and-a-half-hour movie that's not a moment too long. Unlike Goodfellas, this is a cops-and-mobbers story that is both opera and chamber piece. Like its Bostonian neighbor, Mystic River, there a sequences of top-knotch suspense and sweeping violence, but there are also intimate moments of great drama and comedy. Scorsese has two generations of terrific screen actors on hand: DiCaprio, Damon and Wahlberg paired with Martin Sheen, Alec Baldwin and Nicholson. They are all savage and hilarious, by turns. And it's great to see DiCaprio share scenes with Nicholson. I have always viewed the former as the rightful successor to the latter. Most refreshing, though, is Scorsese's direction. His choices vibrate with boldness and ambition -- a go-for-broke style that has been missing from his past two films (I was particularly floored by his handling of a scene that involves Sheen toward the end). And The Departed doesn't fizzle out when it reaches that end. Rather, it culminates much like a fireworks display, with plot points that POP POP POP with a blaring suddenness. It's a grand time.
P.S. At my screening, the score and the rest of the soundtrack were kind of "warped." It sounded like someone was playing with the distortion. As odd as it was, it worked so well that I thought it must be intentional. Other people in the theatre thought it surely wasn't, that it was a problem with the print or the projection. If you've seen it, let me know if you had a similar experience. If the distortion was unintentional, that's too bad. It perfectly suited the sour, snitch-based narrative. Nothing and no one in The Departed is on an even keel, even the soundtrack.
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