Tuesday, December 11, 2007

THE DEPARTED: Blu-ray (Warner Bros. 2006) Warner Home Video

Martin Scorsese’s The Departed (2006) is indeed a curiosity, since in both plot and execution the film does not represent the director’s very best or even solid second tier in his list of accomplished masterworks. A contrived, often cliché-ridden abuse on the senses and artistic sensibilities, the film stars Leonardo DiCaprio (Bill Costigan) and Matt Damon (Colin Sullivan) as a pair of undercover police officers working opposite ends of a crime syndicate to bring Irish-American crime boss, Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson) to justice.

Costello is a deranged freak who delights in the macabre butchery of anyone who double-crosses him. Bill is a plant in Costello’s mob. Seemingly up for the assignment, Bill’s daily diet of watching men die in the most brutal and heinous ways begins to wear heavily on his conscience. Bill’s bosses, Captain Queenan (Martin Sheen) and Dignam (Mark Walberg) have opposing views as to how long Bill will be able to fake his sincerity and allegiance before being discovered.

Meanwhile, Colin is Costello’s right hand; an inside man on the police force – presumably squeaky clean, who has risen through the ranks on his own merit. He harbors insecurities that are crippling his current romantic entanglement with staff psychologist, Madolyn (Vera Farmiga) who is also seeing Bill as a patient. All of these lives intertwine in bizarre and unexpected ways that, thanks to William Monahan’s fast moving screenplay, ought to have resulted in some truly suspenseful moments.

Instead, Scorsese diffuses the narrative with a reoccurring bloodbath and ever-rising body count - so readily gruesome and on display that it effectively desensitizes the audience from relating to any of the characters as more than mere cardboard cutouts. The best of Scorsese’s filmic works about organized crime (Mean Streets, Goodfellas, Casino) have all been harbingers with a certain level of dispensation for the niceties.

Yet, in The Departed we are provided with none of the weight behind the profanities that actors like Joe Pesci and Robert DeNiro brought to their reoccurring roles in the aforementioned. Instead, DiCaprio, Damon and Walberg sulk and skulk about in a purgatory of emotionless conflict, spewing vial diatribes and verbal garbage at one another that is as largely forgettable as it is repugnant and disarming to one's senses

Worse, the overriding lack of mood to the staging of set pieces (Queenan’s murder, Costello’s assassination, Colin’s comeuppance) render each the least memorable moments in the film – drawn with broad strokes of exploding guts in a hail storm of bullets that are not homage to the cartoony loony-land of a graphic novel or Scorsese’s aforementioned stellar film examples. In the end, The Departed leaves as quickly and unexpectedly as it arrived, with only a messy contradiction to reconsider; how could anyone of Scorsese’s caliber have made such an egregiously awful motion picture?

Warner Home Video's Blu-ray rectifies the shortcomings of its 2-disc DVD, accurately evoking Michael Ballhaus' stylized cinematography. Difficult to assess color accuracy, but having seen the film theatrically, I believe the Blu-ray is a faithful a recreation of the blown out contrasts and gritty textures. and accurately rendered flesh tones. The 1080p transfer exhibits a lot of grain - as originally intended - and accurately reproduced with a 'grainy' feel.

The audio is 5.1 DTS and very bombastic. I have to say, I found the extras - all imported from the aforementioned 2 disc DVD - more fascinating than the film. We get TCM’s exceptional documentary on Martin Scorsese’s career; 9 additional scenes with director commentary; a detailed back story of the Boston mob, and a back story on Scorsese’s fascination with crime in the movies.

FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)



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