Thursday, October 05, 2006


The Departed
Before his flair for filmmaking staked a spot in history, Martin Scorsese nearly became a priest. That tidbit of trivia -- a seemingly random nugget kept in circulation by way of abundant auteur mythologizing -- offers a reasonable entry point for understanding the dominant themes in many of the director's finer works. Figures of corruption surge through his foreboding cityscapes, but cruel intentions are disarmed by the presence of a wholesome individual -- a savior leading a righteous path. Jesus may be the literal star in The Last Temptation of Christ, but the Christ-like qualities of a gun-wielding, pimp-killing Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver are hardly subtle.

No such spiritual heart beats in The Departed, which sports Scorsese's flair for technical tomfoolery while betraying his previously stalwart sense of justice. Substance loses footing to style in a big way, creating a gleefully morbid crime story that navigates nearly every turn in the Sopranos playbook. Scorsese predates that recent glorified genre looping, although it isn't apparent from the plotting. Nobody in this crowd-pleasing romp is resolutely good, but pretty much all principals involved earn their pathos through run-of-the-mill backstories borrowed from its more secular precedents in gangster fiction.


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