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Dissecting the Crime Drama, The Genre's Evolution and Reception Of "The Departed"
This in-depth review dissects "The Departed", exploring its place within the crime drama genre, highlighting Scorsese's unparalleled mastery.
Migal Ungale
5 min read

The Departed Movie

A Well-Deserved Accolade for Scorsese

Martin Scorsese's triumphant moment arrived with "The Departed", earning him the coveted Best Director Oscar. While some might argue that it was a nod to his illustrious career, it's undeniable that the film made a powerful impact that year. For many, including myself, it wasn't his magnum opus; "Casino" claims that throne. However, "The Departed" was undeniably riveting, giving stiff competition to the likes of "Blood Diamond" that year.


The Departed Movie

A Departure from Italian Noir to Boston Grit

Taking a thematic detour, Scorsese delves into Boston's tumultuous underworld dominated by the Irish, painting a gritty backdrop to the film's cat-and-mouse chase. The narrative revolves around the formidable crime lord, Frank Costello, portrayed with ruthless elegance by Jack Nicholson. A nod to real-life mafia magnate Frank Costello, Scorsese winks at those familiar with mafia history by referencing this iconic Italian name.

The Departed Movie

Life Imitates Art: Whitey Bulger’s Shadow

Nicholson's character draws inspiration from the notorious Whitey Bulger, the true crime overlord of Boston. What's more fascinating than Bulger's reign of terror is his familial ties; his brother William's turbulent political ascent, crowned by a scandal-tinged tenure as the President of the Massachusetts State Senate, adds layers to the Bulger mystique.

The Departed Movie

Dual Moles: A Complex Game of Loyalty

Taking down a titan like Costello is no small feat, primarily when he employs clever tactics like embedding his loyalist, played by Matt Damon, within the very system trying to take him down. Stationed in the Boston PD Internal Affairs Division, Damon's character is perfectly positioned to tip off Costello. Yet, in a thrilling twist, the police counter with their own trump card - an undercover agent portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio, deeply familiar with Nicholson's crime empire.

Boston’s Finest: Damon and Wahlberg Shine

Leveraging Boston's essence, Scorsese enlists local legends, Matt Damon and Mark Wahlberg, both seamlessly blending into the narrative's fabric. Wahlberg's remarkable portrayal as a dedicated task force member earned him a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination, although he was overshadowed by Alan Arkin's performance in "Little Miss Sunshine".

The Departed Movie

A Shower of Accolades

Despite Wahlberg's miss, "The Departed" garnered a plethora of accolades, including Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing, Best Picture, and, of course, Best Director for Scorsese. DiCaprio, despite delivering a career-defining performance, faced stiff competition from himself with a nomination for "Blood Diamond".

The Departed Movie

The Enigma of Whitey Bulger

The cunning and resilience of the real Whitey Bulger, now an octogenarian, reverberate through Nicholson's portrayal. As audiences are led down a twist-filled narrative, Scorsese ensures that predicting the climax remains an elusive task.

The Departed Movie

Historical Roots of the Crime Drama Genre

The crime drama, into which "The Departed" seamlessly fits, has its roots deeply embedded in cinematic history. It originated in the early days of silent films, slowly evolving to capture the raw underbellies of cities and the intricacies of the human psyche. Classics like "The Public Enemy" and "Little Caesar" from the 1930s laid the foundation, painting characters driven by ambition, haunted by their decisions, and eventually succumbing to their flaws.

The Departed Movie

The Crime Drama's Golden Age: A Reflection of Social Discontent

Fast-forward to the 1970s and the crime drama was undergoing a renaissance, mirroring societal changes and anxieties. Films like "The French Connection" and "Serpico" presented gritty realities, showcasing corrupt systems and morally conflicted protagonists. The success of these movies wasn't just due to compelling storylines, but also because they echoed public distrust and highlighted the blurred lines between right and wrong.

The Departed Movie

Modern Interpretations: Pushing Boundaries

Modern crime dramas, including "The Departed", have taken the foundational elements of their predecessors and given them a fresh twist. Directors are pushing boundaries, exploring deeper psychological terrain, and incorporating diverse cultural perspectives. The cinematic world has been graced with international crime dramas like "City of God" from Brazil, showcasing favela life, or Italy's "Gomorrah", delving into Naples' crime syndicate. Today's crime dramas are more global, diversified, and interconnected, reflecting our globalized world.

The Departed Movie

Audience Reception: The Lure of the Dark Side

What's fascinating is the audience's unwavering appetite for this genre. But why? Perhaps because crime dramas offer a window into a world most will never experience, yet one that exists parallel to our everyday lives. The tension between legality and morality, the intricate dance of cat and mouse, and the exploration of characters that dance on the edge of society's moral compass all prove irresistible. It's the thrill of the forbidden, the rush of adrenaline, and a chance for viewers to confront their own moral boundaries from the safety of their seats.

The Departed Movie

Scorsese's Mastery in the Genre

Martin Scorsese, in particular, has become synonymous with the crime drama, boasting an enviable repertoire that explores the American Dream's dark side. While "Goodfellas" was a brutally honest look at the mob's inner workings, "The Departed" delved into the duality of identity and loyalty against a crime backdrop. His films often comment on the cost of ambition and the blurry line between sinner and savior. In "The Departed", this is exemplified through characters like DiCaprio's and Damon's – one entering the underworld to do good, the other rising through the ranks of law enforcement while nursing darker loyalties.

The Departed Movie

In Conclusion

"The Departed" stands tall as an exemplar within the crime drama genre, a testament to its enduring relevance and ability to evolve. As the genre continues to mirror and critique our world, it serves as a reminder of cinema's power – to entertain, yes, but also to challenge, provoke, and reflect. The crime drama's lasting appeal lies in its commitment to truth, however dark it might be, and its fearless exploration of the grey areas that define human existence.

Migal Ungale
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