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Judge Bill Gibron • Location: Tampa, FL
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Crime Time
October 17th, 2006 5:15PM

Was there ever really a doubt? Who out there in the wild world of film fandom actually thought Martin Scorsese, master of the crime drama, would thoroughly screw this concept up? Come on. Take your punishment. Raise your pathetic little hands and be recognized. Sure, the man behind Goodfellas and Mean Streets may be vulnerable when it comes to bombastic biopics or violence-riddled period pieces, but back on his home turf, the sordid underworld of crooks and the corruptible, he's just plain magic. Rag on Casino all you want, but nothing this stellar director did created the void left by Sharon Stone and various underdeveloped ancillary characters. No, The Departed proves conclusively that, when surrounded by a stellar cast capable of completely understanding what this master is after, with the added ability of being able to channel it all through their own unique perspective, filmic fireworks are the result. This is, without a doubt, one of 2006's best movies, another milestone for a man whose career path is paved with such accolades.

Unlike the neo-postmodern motion picture, which paints its important facets with cinematic fluorescents and then repeats the patently obvious points until their rote in our rattle brains, The Departed is a narrative full of the subtlest of suggestions. Crucial connections are merely hinted at, major motivation locked beneath well-crafted dialogue and even more effective performance. Every single actor here is magnificent, each proving why they continually rake in the big bucks whenever Tinsel Town feels they need a basic box office guarantee. As Frank Costello, Jack Nicholson has a disheveled look about him that just screams old world rogue. Even when he's twisting ideas over in his cunning little noggin, you can see the decades of power and control crossing his cragged face. Matt Damon and Leonardo DeCaprio both offer career defining turns, using their own unique brand of individual wholesomeness to underscore the dire desperation each character exists in.

As usual, flying around the edges are perfect supporting turns by Ray Winstone, Martin Sheen, Alec Baldwin and Mark Wahlberg. They all invest The Departed with a gravitas that elevates the occasionally pulpish material above the typical good cop/bad cop shtick. But this is really Scorsese's film, a reinvention of his typical operatic mob mannerisms. Gone are many of his most artistic ploys the diving and swooping camera, the endless tracking shots, the cutting of scenes to the beat of some well-known rock song and in their place is a new sense of restraint, a desire to let the narrative, not the nuances, tell the story. Again, how faithful the filmmaker is to the original Hong Kong trilogy is beyond my comprehension, and frankly, after seeing this mesmerizing adaptation, I'm not sure if I ever want to see the source. Scorsese paints such a perfect picture, giving each and every facet of the complex plot room to breath or betray, that to see it done a different way would just be confusing. From the opening introduction of Costello as he shakes down a local grocer to the rooftop finale where everything is resolved without being resolute, we are in the hands of a moviemaking master.

If there is a single flaw in this otherwise faultless film it is the decision to release it in October. Too far away from Oscar to make the necessary critical dent, but left out of a summer where it could clearly shine, Hollywood needs to understand that these are the kind of movies that fans really want. Even the best that the blockbuster season had to offer couldn't hold a single celluloid candle to what The Departed has to offer. Sadly, by the time the Academy is set to vote, the gangster goodness Scorsese provides, and the acting that certifies his skills, will be lost in a pool of hype, happenstance and narrow sighted hubris. The rest of the films arriving this fall and winter will have a ways to go to dethrone The Departed. For my money, this is a great movie, and continuing proof that creativity, not ad campaigns or test screenings, deliver stunning entertainment results. Thankfully, craftsman like Martin Scorsese are still allowed to work their wonders on the wounded soul of the cinema. Without artists like him, all would be lost.

9 out of 10

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