Seeing Scorsese work with a practically all new batch of actors on a story that he’s never even come close to doing before makes The Departed, if nothing else, a very distinct entry into his filmography, but also one of the very best. The world this film explores, the way in which it explores it and the characters it uses to do so are all new to Scorsese, and yet feel so true to him and his style at the same time – this film seems to signify the filmmaker moving with the times, but at his own pace and in a way that works for him.
Jack Nicholson is just unforgettable in every single film that he appears in, and he really steals the show here, even amidst excellent performances from the likes of DiCaprio and Damon, the former especially so, both of which could easily hold their own as the centre of attention for any other film, but when alongside Nicholson, they can’t help but submit to his character-acting prowess.
There are so many levels of intrigue, deception and tension that continue to pile up as the film progresses, facing you with another level of subversion just as you get to understanding one prior – despite how one could deem this as frustrating, it’s more so fun than anything else, constantly keeping you on your toes and having you perpetually invested in this huge, convoluted (in the best possible way) story.
Scorsese’s cinematography collaborators are always decisively picked for exactly what kind of film he is aiming to make, with Ballhaus’ work on this film perhaps lacking the vibrancy and playfulness of Richardson or Prieto, in favour of a much more grounded, yet still engaging, visual style. This film has made something absolutely certain to me: Scorsese is, without a doubt, one of the best filmmakers of all time, and definitely one of my favourites, with The Departed just showing me how much there is to love of him.