Sep 2017 which was probably the 10th time I’ve seen
There really aren’t that many films in history that are both this high in quality, and have so many big actors doing such superior work. Usually a film with this large of a top-tier ensemble (How the West Was Won, some of Preminger’s work in the 60’s) suffers for it and can’t find room for everyone or the quality of the film can’t match the firepower. I guess I’d compare it to the Ocean/s films, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,, Heat and a very few select others who can balance that
7-8 massive star performances- DiCaprio, Damon, Nicholson, Winstone, Baldwin, Wahlberg, (who may come out on top only behind DiCaprio), Farminga, Kevin Corrigan (amazing in his scenes), Martin Sheen (not so good)
Another Heat-like meeting of DiCaprio and Damon- though not on that level. Also clearly every scene with Nicholson and DiCaprio is now part of film history with those two towering heavyweights together (DiCaprio fares better here with jack than he does with say Daniel Day Lewis in Gangs of New York)
“Gimme Shelter” Rolling Stones opening shot—it does feel a little bit like Scorsese on tour paying his greatest hits– We actually get it not once but twice. I have a problem here
The narrative is so good- there may not be a breezier 2 ½ hours in cinema history (a trait it shares with like 4-5 other Scorsese films from Aviator to Goodfellas)—it only slows in one or two scenes and usually with Nicholson riffing a little too much maybe- thinking about the rat scene with Leo but overall it is such an engrossing narrative
Machismo- and god I love it- chest thumping in almost every scene. It’s different than like Refn’s brutality or the fatalism in a Peckinpah film. It fits these actors.
Wonderful homage and framing in the shot at the funeral- it’s The Third Man from Carol Reed and that iconic final shot
Leo’s performance is both showy and genuine- such a wonderfully edgy performance—exposed and complexity for a genre film that is essentially a narrative vehicle
Editing Oscar win and one for screenplay
18 minutes in we get the infamous title sequence- I absolutely love it—it’s bold. A tracking right montage through prison (crosscutting with Damon living the good life on Beacon Hill) with the dropkick murphy’s pouring over the sound. It’s genius.
The performances mirror the screenplay- its total free swinging. I never say this with Scorsese but I wish the camerawork was a little more playful
For all the comparisons this is not Heat or Goodfellas. It’s unfair to compare it two those films but when you’re at that level you have to make evaluative comparisons
Simply a hilarious film- like Goodfellas I laughed more than with 99% of comedies
Another comparison is Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid with the winning narrative and massive stars (just two in the case of Butch)- Big Sleep has some similar bravado with big performances/stars
Not a perfect narrative- it’s not tight- but we’re nitpicking here– – the relationship with Sheen and DiCaprio is not fully realized enough to earn some of the scenes
Performances are often dictated by the writing (or the ability to improvise)- Wahlberg is so well written and Sheen, often, is not
Again I also get tired of Nicholson’s endless mannerisms. I think you can justify it because his character is losing his sanity (if he ever had it) but I think Jack is going for what he did in Tim burton’s batman as the joker and it doesn’t work here
The roof scene, now iconic, is wonderful—as is the final scene with Wahlberg
A large, engaging, sprawling (how fitting is this blog entry? ha) work
Viewing probably 11 October 2019
I’ve realized that you really can’t overwatch great films. I saw 2001 twice in one week last year. I’ve seen this film so often and I’m still picking up stuff. If it doesn’t hold up, it isn’t that good
The reoccurring “X’s” in the film’s mise-en-scene is a real achievement. Scorsese is an admirer of Howard Hawks’ 1932 Scarface and in that film they use the “X” to indicate a murder. It’s ingeniously done here.
You have the praise the black comedy throughout the film
Duality – pleasure vs. sin as in almost all of Scorsese’s films. He could have been a Priest or a gangster (think of Keitel’s Charlie in Mean Streets)- cops or criminals here and the parallel editing of the two
It’s a machine of engaging narrative and performances- there are 50 memorable scenes
Gorgeous shots throughout like the X with Damon overlooking the golden dome or DiCaprio at the airport
A really nice split diopter of Damon and Farminga
Varda’s triple edit (Scorsese lifts it from Cleo From 5 to 7 in almost all of his films) while DiCaprio is chasing Damon
Should have been Scorsese’s 4th or 5th Best Picture Win not First Mean Streets(no nominated), Taxi Driver, Raging Bull,Goodfellas, and The Aviator all should have won in their respective years, This is still a Masterpiece tho.
@Randy– I know! It’s frustrating but happy Scorsese was finally recognized. The best picture winner for the is rarely the actual best film of the year. I haven’t gone year by year and counted how many times they got it right but I know in my top 100 of all-time I have a total of 6 best picture winners (Gone With the Wind, Casablanca, Lawrence of Arabia, The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, and Annie Hall).
Very interesting analysis Drake, I just looked at it again and it is true, I had not seen all the “x”, I disagree that I should have won the aviator, Taxi driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas you are absolutely right, the aviator .. it seems kind of flat to me, like a brick lol
Am I the only person who likes the rat in the final shot of The Departed? It has been widely lambasted for being too on-the-nose, and there was even a petition that raised thousands of dollars to remove it from the official cut. I suppose I must like obvious symbolism. Sure, there have been better uses of symbols in cinema – the shot of De Niro on the phone in Taxi Driver that pans over to the empty hallway to represent isolation comes to mind immediately – but I though this one was a relatively successful way to end the film. Besides, the movie ends on a rather abrupt plot twist (the last among a series of abrupt moments), and I think there had to be something there to close off after that occurred.
@Graham- you are not alone! haha. well said!
Yeah it kinda has a reputation as a meme nowadays and I don’t think that’s exactly an inaccurate description of the rat, but I personally feel that if the ending had just been “Damon’s dead” and that’s that it wouldn’t have had the same effect as with the rat.
It very much sets the mood of that final scene; not unlike for example the music in the opening scenes of Mean Streets or Raging Bull. It’s such an important element and while it is unsubtle it is a sign that unsubtle, while often being pretty awful (just watch any Daniel Destin Cretton movie), can be used to great effect; Oliver Stone is a very unsubtle filmmaker but he’s still (or some would say was) extremely talented.
great film. though i disagree with you on some of the actors. i thought nicholson ad sheen were very good in the film.i feel like it is an even better crime epic than zodiac.
I don’t think they were anything exceptional myself. They weren’t “blown off the screen” so to speak but they clearly weren’t the ones in control of their scenes, it was always DiCaprio, Damon, or even Wahlberg. About the Zodiac comparison, the two are pretty equal imo but I’d give the slight lead to Zodiac. There’s a lot of great stuff in that movie but the murder scenes and the basement scene are just absolutely dripping with tension that I don’t think this movie quite reaches (but it comes pretty close).
A couple of days ago I saw it second time, the first time was over 10 years ago. I have to say that dialog is not aged well (with me), especially the first 20 or 30 minutes, very childish language. Another thing is between the first watch and second, I have seen around 10-15 James Gagney and Edward G. Robinson movies, so acting for me were very different level than the first time. I have to admit, no special acting here. I liked Matt Demon action the most, silent parts facial expression.
After a recent viewing I picked up on something that has somehow eluded me for many years. I believe Matt Damon’s character is a closeted gay man.
There are several clues spread out over the film:
1. The excessive anti-gay slurs he uses throughout the film.
2. He hits on women in public several times and while this alone might not mean much it’s
more the way he does it; he seems to go out of his way to make sure people see him hitting
on or making sexual remarks about women to other guys.
3. When he’s playing golf with Alec Baldwin’s character, Baldwin tells him the advantages
to being married and Damon makes sure to tell Baldwin that he and his girlfriend have an
active sex life, which brings me to my next point.
4. It’s hinted in a conversation with his girlfriend at breakfast that he was not able to perform
sexually the night before.
5. The scene where he is looking for an apartment the real estate agent asks if he is married
and Damon states he has a co-signer which the agent seems to interpret as Damon being
to which Damon snaps at him.
There may be a few others as well but I think you get the picture. I find this theory interesting because it fits so well into the movies themes of identity and deception. Damon is a criminal playing a cop and DiCaprio is a cop playing a criminal. So this aspect of Damon’s character would fit in seamlessly with the rest of the movie as it indicates Damon has to work even harder at deceiving people since he has to do it with both his professional and personal life. I the last scene particularly telling when Damon walking into his apartment sees Wahlberg holding a gun and Damon almost seems to just except the situation and seems almost content when he just say “Okay” right before being shot to death. I think the amount of deception and pretending he’s something that he’s not was so exhausting that at the end he is at peace with his impending fate.
@James Trapp- very interesting. I’ve seen it 10 times and haven’t thought of this but I think you make a compelling case
I saw this on r/TrueFilm once, and my problem with this theory is that it presents itself as film criticism but it comes off more as fan theory, and to be honest, I’m a bit skeptical of its actual importance to the film, both reading about it then and here now, though when I watch it again I guess I’ll have to see.
Also, James, I love when you write about Scorsese, but really, how many times have you watched this movie, not to mention all of Scorsese’s movies?
@Zane – perhaps you are correct but I think most fan theories take very limited information and really try to stretch it making several assumptions along the way. I don’t think I’m making any unfounded assumptions here just responding to what I think the points I made above imply. As far as it not being important to the movie, normally I would agree and I generally don’t spend much time thinking about fan theories but here you have a movie whose themes related to identity would be absolutely relevant.
Regarding your other question, I’ve seen The Departed about 7 or 8 times, Goodfellas like 10 or more, Raging Bull like 6-8 and Taxi Driver like 10 or more, and after that I am not sure. Overall I have seen like 90% of his movies. Why do you ask?
@James Trapp It’s an interesting theory, but I’ve always thought that Sullivan inability to perform with Farmiga character is due to the stress of double life. And in other instances he simply tries to be an alpha male in the environment where it’s important.
The same about his finale moment, he just tired of the double life.
I don’t want to say that the theory doesn’t have merit. It’s just evidence is so subtle that it doesn’t seem definitive and,it doesn’t change much about Damon’s character for me.
Although I think it’s another point for this movie since it can support this interpretation without us truly able to prove it wrong.))
@Mad Mike – As I said to Zane above I normally don’t spend much time thinking about fan theories as I think generally these theories take limited information and really stretch it.
I think any of the things I alluded to above by themselves might not mean much but combined I thought it might add up to mean something. You are right about it being possible that Damon ‘s character is just responding to his environment as police certainly have a hyper-masculine culture. It’s just that Damon goes way out of his way to an almost ridiculous extent with his use of gay slurs and hitting on women in public, he acts almost like a stereotypical jock in an 80s High School movie. And yes, he could be responding to the stress of his double life but it seemed to me that even at his home he seems to be hiding something more. There are a couple scenes when him and the Farmiga character start getting frisky and he makes up some excuse to leave, it’s almost like he can never be at peace, and yes that could just be the stress of his professional life but it just seemed like something more to me. Just my opinion.
@James Trapp Yeah, I agree that a lot of fan theories are a lot more far-fetched.
You make good points, and I will try to keep this in my mind when I catch this film again.
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