Wednesday, October 19, 2016


“When I was your age they would say we can become cops, or criminals…”

This month marks the 10th anniversary of Martin Scorsese’s THE DEPARTED.

A remake of the 2002 Hong Kong film INTERNAL AFFAIRS, Scorsese’s THE DEPARTED was a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek, catch-me-if-you-can game of a film in which a Boston-based Irish mob boss named Frank Costello plants a mole in the State Police, while the cops plant a mole of their own in Costello’s crew…which leads to both moles trying to uncover each other’s identity. The film was Scorsese’s 20th  feature, and ultimately his most successful.

The road to THE DEPARTED began in 2003, when producer Brad Grey and actor/producer Brad Pitt bought the rights to remake INTERNAL AFFAIRS. William Monahan was hired to write the screenplay and set the film in Boston. Scorsese, impressed with the setting and the Irish-Catholic gangster persona, signed up to direct.

The cast was a list of Hollywood heavyweights. Jack Nicholson, already considered a legend in the screen community, was cast as Frank Costello. Nicholson, looking to give the film something different than what other gangster films had shown before, came up with the idea of basing his character on real-life Boston gangster Whitey Bulger…which gave THE DEPARTED a strong element of realism. Matt Damon would come on board as the State Police mole on Costello’s payroll, and Leonardo DiCaprio, who had success with Scorsese with GANGS OF NEW YORK (2002) and THE AVIATOR (2004), would be cast as the other mole. The rest of the cast included Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Vera Farmiga, Ray Winstone, Alec Baldwin, Anthony Anderson, James Badge Dale, and Mark Rolston.

Filming began in 2005 on location in Boston and New York City. Scorsese, always looking to write a love letter to the classic pieces of cinema which inspired him, gave subtle, and not-so subtle references and winks to SCARFACE (1983), WHITE HEAT (1949), LITTLE CAESAR (1931), and even his own GOODFELLAS (1989).  The film was edited by Thelma Schoonmaker, who had won Oscars with Scorsese for her work on his RAGING BULL (1980), and THE AVIATOR (2004). Howard Shore would provide the score, and Irish rock band The Dropkick Murphys were more than happy to send their raucous song I’m Shipping Up to Boston over to Scorsese…who would also add tracks by The Beach Boys, The Rolling Stones, Roger Waters, and Patsy Cline, among others.

THE DEPARTED was highly anticipated and opened to critical acclaim. It would be the third Scorsese film to debut at number one, and would remain in the top ten for seven weeks. It would appear on many top ten “best-of” lists, and Richard Roeper would name it the best film of the 2000’s. Mark Wahlberg would be nominated for Best Supporting Actor, and at those 79th Academy Awards, THE DEPARTED would win four Oscars; including Best Picture, Best Director (Scorsese), Best Film Editing (Schoonmaker, her third with Scorsese), and Best Adapted Screenplay (Monahan). The film would be the first time Scorsese won an Oscar after six previous losses.


One of the most memorable moments in all of Oscar history was when Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and Francis Ford Coppola…cinema titans of the 1970’s and 1980’s and friends to Martin Scorsese, came out on stage to award him with his first Academy Award for Best Director. Some say that the Oscar wasn’t quite deserved and was given to him as a lifetime achievement award, but this Blogger raises his middle finger to that notion. THE DEPARTED today stands as a grand film; brilliant in concept and execution, packed with tremendous acting and crafted with the precise skill that is seldom seen in film today. THE DEPARTED is not just another gangster flick but a strong story about identity, and if it does have to be put into that genre, it is by far the definitive modern film on organized crime. It hasn’t aged at all in a decade, and will be remembered fondly when Scorsese eventually folds up his director’s chair.


“I don’t want to be a product of my environment, I want my environment to be a product of me.”

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