Deja vu --wasn't it just two years ago when we had a Martin Scorsese movie and a Clint Eastwood picture arriving within weeks of each other, fighting it out for critical kudos and audience dollars? The big difference this time is that it's October instead of December and neither movie, due to genre in the first case and quality in the second, is as red carpet friendly.
Before I get to The Departed I feel it necessary to restate, quickly, that I am firmly pro Aviator. So, I’m not sure (entirely) what this current fuss is about --this general consensus that the acclaimed auteur has finally ‘recovered’. It’s as if he’s been dropping embarrassing stink bombs for years. I didn't like Gangs of New York (messy, overlong, hit and miss acting) but Marty made The Aviator just two years ago. That was a wonderfully glitzy, gorgeous and crackling movie with strong performances. While it may be true that this auteur’s best films are behind him, whose aren’t? –-I mean as far as iconic filmmakers of the 70s go.
I don’t love Scorsese's new pic quite as much as I loved The Aviator but that’s a taste statement rather than a qualitative one. Give me a choice between two equally well made pictures: one is about glamourous Hollywood types and the other is about foul-mouthed criminals on both sides of the law. Which one you think I’m gonna grab at lustfully?
Aside from a little late film fatigue, I was thoroughly entertained by The Departed . It's a pretty faithful redo of another good picture, Infernal Affairs but I liked it more. It was easier to follow (maybe because I’d seen the original?) and the small shifts in story made it more of an ensemble piece. And oh how they ensemble! Mark Wahlberg, Alec Baldwin, Martin Sheen, Jack Nicholson, Matt Damon, and Leonardo DiCaprio all relish the opportunity to get a little bloody for Marty. I don’t think the new film has solved the problem of this story’s lone female character (what is this psychiatrist thinking?) but Vera Farmiga works hard to make some sense of her. And here’s a neat little twist of pleasure: the film is overloaded with deadly competitive character agendas but you won’t see a more superb example of cohesive ensemble acting.
Scorsese can justifiably take another bow though we should send some credit to the screenplay which has balls of steel –I’m not sure that it’s completely graceful in its relentless forward motion but it’s easy to see why the audience gets so high on the third (fourth?) act developments. I wouldn't call it twisty exactly. After all, it’s only a shocking movie because most Hollywood storytelling is so wallflower shy. This one has personality, kick and bite. B+
thoughts on Flags of Our Fathers tomorrow...