The Departed

The Departed won the Oscar for Best Picture of 2006, and three others: Best Director (Martin Scorsese), Best Film Editing (Thelma Schoonmaker), and Best Adapted Screenplay Writing (William Monahan). The other Best Picture nominees were The Queen, which I have seen, and Babel, Letters from Iwo Jima and Little Miss Sunshine, which I haven’t. The Hugo and Nebula that year both went to Pan’s Labyrinth.

The Departed ranks 2nd and 4th on the IMDB lists of 2006 films, with The Prestige ahead of it in both cases (I really must try and see that). Others from that year that I have seen: Casino RoyaleHappy FeetThe Last King of ScotlandThe Queen, as mentioned;  Charlotte’s Web; the curiously genderflipped Barnyard; and Starter for 10, which is probably my favourite. Here’s a trailer.

A fair number of big names here, starting with Leonardo Di Caprio, who we last saw in Titanic (1997) as Jack; here again he is the top billed male actor, double agent Billy.

After a long interval, we get Jack Nicholson again, here crime lord Costello, three decades earlier the randy astronaut in Terms of Endearment (1983) and the hero McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest .

Martin Sheen is of course forever President Bartlett for me. But here he is police captain Queenan, a quarter century after his role as a reporter in Gandhi (1982).

There are a couple of others – David O’Hara was in Braveheart, Mark Rolston was in Aliens, I’m sure there are more – but I don’t have the energy to track them all down now.

This I think the first Oscar-winner to be set in Massachusetts, or even in New England. (The most popular location for Oscar-winning films is New York, though we haven’t had one there since Kramer vs Kramer). It’s a crime story (we’ve had more of those), in which the a police agent played by Leonardo di Caprio is planted by Sheen’s character inside the criminal organisation led by Nicholson’s character, while another character played by Matt Damon does the same in reverse, as Nicholson’s character’s mole within the police.

I admired this film without really liking it all that much. As usual, starting with the points against: it’s two and a half hours long, and I really have better things to do with my weekends. It’s very much a white men’s film – in the credits, the first woman credited is in seventh place (Vera Farmyga, whose character’s purpose is to get romantically engaged with both the leads); and the first non-white actor is in eighth place, Anthony Anderson, leading the alphabet of second-stringers.

Lots of people get killed. None of the characters is especially likeable. The Boston Catholic community is nicely depicted as a backdrop, though you would get the idea that all Irish-descended Bostonians are either cops or criminals (or both).

The central theme of identity, involving two double agents operating in opposite directions, is fascinating and well executed. John Le Carre developed a whole subgenre about spies with conflicted loyalties, well established by the time Scorsese transplanted it to Boston cops.

Eveyone who has seen the Hong Kong film this was based on, Infernal Affairs, tells me that the original is better. Unfortunately I have not been able to track it down, but I’ll keep looking.

Next up, Pan’s Labyrinth and No Country for Old Men.

Winners of the Oscar for Best Picture

1920s: Wings (1927-28) | The Broadway Melody (1928-29)
1930s: All Quiet on the Western Front (1929-30) | Cimarron (1930-31) | Grand Hotel (1931-32) | Cavalcade (1932-33) | It Happened One Night (1934) | Mutiny on the Bounty (1935, and books) | The Great Ziegfeld (1936) | The Life of Emile Zola (1937) | You Can’t Take It with You (1938) | Gone with the Wind (1939, and book)
1940s: Rebecca (1940) | How Green Was My Valley (1941) | Mrs. Miniver (1942) | Casablanca (1943) | Going My Way (1944) | The Lost Weekend (1945) | The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) | Gentleman’s Agreement (1947) | Hamlet (1948) | All the King’s Men (1949)
1950s: All About Eve (1950) | An American in Paris (1951) | The Greatest Show on Earth (1952) | From Here to Eternity (1953) | On The Waterfront (1954, and book) | Marty (1955) | Around the World in 80 Days (1956) | The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) | Gigi (1958) | Ben-Hur (1959)
1960s: The Apartment (1960) | West Side Story (1961) | Lawrence of Arabia (1962) | Tom Jones (1963) | My Fair Lady (1964) | The Sound of Music (1965) | A Man for All Seasons (1966) | In the Heat of the Night (1967) | Oliver! (1968) | Midnight Cowboy (1969)
1970s: Patton (1970) | The French Connection (1971) | The Godfather (1972) | The Sting (1973) | The Godfather, Part II (1974) | One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) | Rocky (1976) | Annie Hall (1977) | The Deer Hunter (1978) | Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)
1980s: Ordinary People (1980) | Chariots of Fire (1981) | Gandhi (1982) | Terms of Endearment (1983) | Amadeus (1984) | Out of Africa (1985) | Platoon (1986) | The Last Emperor (1987) | Rain Man (1988) | Driving Miss Daisy (1989)
1990s: Dances With Wolves (1990) | The Silence of the Lambs (1991) | Unforgiven (1992) | Schindler’s List (1993) | Forrest Gump (1994) | Braveheart (1995) | The English Patient (1996) | Titanic (1997) | Shakespeare in Love (1998) | American Beauty (1999)
21st century: Gladiator (2000) | A Beautiful Mind (2001) | Chicago (2002) | The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) | Million Dollar Baby (2004, and book) | Crash (2005) | The Departed (2006) | No Country for Old Men (2007) | Slumdog Millionaire (2008) | The Hurt Locker (2009)
2010s: The King’s Speech (2010) | The Artist (2011) | Argo (2012) | 12 Years a Slave (2013) | Birdman (2014) | Spotlight (2015) | Moonlight (2016) | The Shape of Water (2017) | Green Book (2018) | Parasite (2019)
2020s: Nomadland (2020) | CODA (2021) | Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022)

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