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Martin Scorcese back on form, Jack Nicholson hogging the screen, all in a thrilling Hollywood remake of "Infernal Affairs." What more could you wants asks Mike Drayton?

To cut to the chase; what you want to know is whether this is a good movie and will you enjoy it. Well, it's a great movie and you will love it, especially if you are a fan of Martin Scorcese's gangster classics like Goodfellas and Casino. It's a ten out of ten must see film. The plot twists and turns, the performances by Jack Nicholson, Leonardo Di Caprio and Matt Damon are superb, and the soundtrack is great too.

The Departed tells the story of story of two young men, DiCaprio and Damon who are both cops. DiCaprio is working under cover, posing as a gang member with the Boston Irish mafia, led by the ageing Jack ….(beautifully played by Jack Nicholson). Damon, meanwhile, is advancing up the police career ladder while at the same secretly feeding information to Nicholson's mob. In effect, he too is undercover, only for the other side. Neither knows who the other is,and the film is about the tense cat and mouse conflict between the two.

The performances from all the actors are quality. DiCaprio is outstanding for the subtlety and depth of his performance. His role is as a tough guy but you can see the feelings of confusion doubt and vulnerability drift across his face. Jack Nicholson's performance is wonderfully mad only occasionally spilling over into ham. There is a terrific scene where he is idly playing with a severed hand, fiddling with the ring, whilst talking to DiCaprio. He then calmly gives the detatched body part to one of his henchmen for disposal. In another scene he walks through the bar he owns covered in blood and nobody bats an eyelid. Matt Damon is also in fine form, reprising his role in ‘The Astounding Mr Ripley' as a charming psychopath with identity problems.

This is a very violent film. However, the violence is real and not "Hollywood". When DiCaprio hits someone hard, he breaks his hand. When a character is hit in the face his broken teeth are spat out. The violence in the Departed is serious and this is how violence should be portrayed; as being sickening, brutal and nasty.

The soundtrack also deserves a mention because, as in most Scorcese films the music has been thoughtfully chosen. Gimme Shelter by the Rolling Stones sounds great as does Pink Floyd's Comfortably Numb.

As in all of Scorcese's movies the themes of loyalty, family, masculinity, Catholicism and destruction/creation are strong.

In a voice over at the start of the film …..(Jack Nicholson) growls, “I am not going to be a product of my environment. My environment is going to be a product of me". This is one of the many underlying and complex themes to the film. How the characters influence and mould the world according their own values.

Nicholson is a childless ‘Godfather' who ‘adopts' both DiCaprio and Damon and treats them like sons. He is a cruel and destructive man whose environment does indeed become a product of his own perverted internal world.

Both DiCaprio and Damon struggle to maintain their identity, each becoming increasingly confused as to whether they are cops or crooks. Each has to struggle to maintain dual identities; good and evil. Damon loses the battle (and his humanity) early on, whereas DiCaprio remains human and deeply confused.

Scorcese's preoccupation with Catholicism and family is raised at the start. Nicholson says, “In the beginning we (the Irish in Boston) only had the church, which is another way of sayingwe only had each other". Half way through the film he confronts a priest who has been sexually abusing children. Another example of an institution which should offer comfort and support (like the family, his 'family') being perverted into something evil.

It is Scorcese's achievment that he weaves these important ideas intoa complex and gripping plot.

My companion for the evening wondered what was spiritually uplifting about the film (Nicholson would have said go to church not a movie if you want to be spiritually uplifted). Well, I think the uplifting theme is that the DiCaprio character maintains his humanity and honour throughout the violence and murder that permeates his story.


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