When you're facing a loaded gun, what's the difference?
Martin Scorsese's The Departed thrums with an excitement -- an underlying rhythm that escalates throughout the movie. There's a beat, an energy, a nervousness, a desperation that carries the viewer right from the first shot and through the film's abrupt end.
"The rats are dead. Long live the rats," says one movie reviewer. And he has identified the core of the film's plot. The Departed is about the 'twins' -- two police officers who take differring career paths that inevitably pits them against each other.
Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) grows under the wing of Frank Costelo (Jack Nicholson) and quickly rises to the police ranks even while feeding information that keeps his benefactor a step ahead of those that plot against him. Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a messed-up kid with with dark familial background who goes undercover in Costelo's crime ring and slowly gains the trust -- if one could call it that -- of the mobster. While Sullivan has the easy smile and funny one liners that puts everyone at ease, Costigan is the angsty, drowning-in-the pressure undercover who has to resort to drugs to keep his heart from bursting from his chest. Despite their differences, however, Scorsese masterfully rendered the film to show the two 'rats' are the two sides of the same coin -- two facets of the same shadow unknowingly circling each other, inescapably headed to a violent collision course.
It is a movie dripping with testosterone, with the interesting addition of showcasing how power is a fickle bitch. Blink and power escapes those who thought they had it -- drowning them in the lies and deceit that they all wove.
While The Departed will not need most of your braincells to understand the plot and to catch the symbolisms and devices (Nicholson's flowing beard to DiCaprio's sprouting goatee; Damon's cold, calculating intelligence to DiCaprio's emotional, instinctive pulls; the psychiatrist Madolyn who 'nurtures' the two lead cops to Nicholson's Machiavellian manipulations), it is an unquestionably enjoyable film. The cast is terrific and the script is superb, but it's the film's electric rhythm that will keep you at the figurative edge of your seats.