A Review of Martin Scorsese’s “The Departed”

In honor of the Golden Globe nominations and the race for Oscar, here is a rebroadcast of my review of The Departed from when it originally opened in October of 2006.  This is the only film from this year to receive 10/10 stars from me.  Comparatively, last year, I bestowed two 10 star reviews to The Constant Gardener and Crash (which went on to win the Oscar for Best Picture).  In 2004, I bestowed only one 10 star review to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

The Renaissance, 9 October 2006
10/10
Author: David H. Schleicher from New Jersey, USA

Martin Scorsese has reached a point in his career where he has free reign to do whatever he wishes as a director. It’s hallowed ground for an auteur, and as such, every actor worth his salt would kill to work for him knowing full well that whatever Scorsese chooses to do will be an uncompromising work of art. With “The Departed” he has quite possibly one of the greatest casts ever assembled. The deliciously convoluted plot based on the recent Asian flick “Infernal Affairs” showcases Jack Nicholson as an Irish mob boss; Leonardo DiCaprio as an undercover cop infiltrating the crime ring; Matt Damon as the crime ring’s inside man with the police unit assigned to bring them down; Alec Baldwin, Martin Sheen, and Mark Wahlberg as the cops working above Damon and DiCaprio; and a breakthrough role for Vera Farmiga as a police psychiatrist in a love triangle with Damon and DiCaprio. This brief but confusing rundown is merely the tip of the iceberg and reveals nothing of the plot twists and tension riddling every aspect of the film like bullet holes from a machine gun massacre.

By now, Scorsese is to crime dramas what Hitchcock was to psychological thrillers. Comparatively, he’s at the same point in his long career Hitchcock was when he gave us “Rear Window,” “Psycho,” and “Vertigo.” Scorsese could’ve directed this blindfolded and it would’ve still been first rate. What’s so thrilling about Scorsese as a filmmaker is that he’s always directing full throttle with his eyes wide open. “The Departed” is so ridiculously good it left me with chills afterward. After a brief departure to big budget Oscar pushes with “Gangs of New York” and “The Aviator,” Scorsese returns to the familiar ground of his most revered projects like “Taxi Driver,” “Raging Bull,” Goodfellas,” and “Casino.” All his hallmarks are here: fantastic use of music, brilliantly choreographed bouts of violence, heart-pounding editing, deep and meaningful camera shots and movement, religious iconography, an epic and detailed sense of place (in this case, Boston), and highly quotable dialogue that is dramatic and funny and full of pathos in all the right places.

With its rising tension and cat-and-mouse theatrics, “The Departed” is easily the most viscerally thrilling studio film to come down the pike in many moons. Scorsese doesn’t just treat us to his usual bag of tricks, he re-imagines them, and in exorcising perfectly balanced performances from an amazingly talented cast that in the hands of lesser director may have gone over-the-top, he delivers a modern day tragedy on par with greatest works of Shakespeare. For Scorsese, the big screen is his canvas, the camera his paint brush, and the blood splattered across the screen his awe-inspiring brush strokes. He’s a veteran, he’s a master, and “The Departed” is his Renaissance.

Originally published on the Internet Movie Database.

http://imdb.com/title/tt0407887/usercomments-359

Advertisements

A Review of Stephen Frears’ “The Queen”

In honor of the Golden Globe nominations and the race for Oscar, here’s a rebroadcast of my review of The Queen from when it originally opened in October of 2006.

Paparazzi Kissed the Princess, 9 October 2006
8/10
Author: David H. Schleicher from New Jersey, USA

The paparazzi kissed the princess that fateful week in 1997, but all the English people wanted was their Queen. Stephen Frears’ competent, well written, expertly cast and intimate look into the Royal Family and British government in the aftermath of Princess Diana’s death is a straightforward, no-nonsense stunner.

Operating both as a comedy of manners where the newly elected Prime Minister Tony Blair (an excellent Michael Sheen) must save the Royal Family from themselves before the Monarchy is tossed aside completely by an angry, guilt-ridden public desperately wanting a statement, a word of comfort, or at very least the presence in London of their Queen Elizabeth II (played masterfully by Helen Mirren, who is as cold and stubborn here as she was conflicted and passionate as Elizabeth I in the HBO miniseries of the same name earlier this year), and also as a surprisingly touching testament to the British people’s love affair with Princess Diana and more importantly the Monarchy, “The Queen” succeeds splendidly on multiple levels.

Frears combines archival footage of a grieving public and newscasts with intertwining splices of historical recreations and fictionalized riffs on what it must’ve been like inside the Royal Chambers. The writers get the mannerisms of the Royals down perfect, as people with stiff upper lips who declare their outrage with words like “quite” and “that’s not how it’s done!” One miscalculation is when the writers try to create a connection between Blair’s love for his deceased mother and his newfound sense of protectionism over Elizabeth. It’s only surface level, and Freudian, and seems rather out of place in an otherwise totally British film. The rest of the Royals serve as a sideshow, with Prince Charles wimpy and ineffective in the presence of his mother, Prince Phillip (James Cromwell) a rowdy lout, and the Queen Mother (Sylvia Sims) providing equal parts comic relief and aristocratic wisdom to her daughter.

In the end, “The Queen” is a film that sneaks up on you, funnier and more touching than you imagined, and anchored by a classic turn from a consummate British actress as a Queen who desires to understand her people and do them proud while honoring the traditions of her lineage.

 Originally published on the Internet Movie Database

http://imdb.com/title/tt0436697/usercomments-46