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Oscar preview: “The Departed”

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By Tyler Davidson

Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio duke it out in “The Departed.” (Warner Bros.)

By Tyler Davidson

“The Departed” is an intriguing and action-filled story of betrayal, hidden identity, and the ever-seedy underworld of organized crime.

A noteworthy strong point, the film’s cast reads like a “who’s who” of 21st century Hollywood A-listers, the most notable of which is Jack Nicholson (Frank Costello), who sees his first serious role since 2001’s “The Pledge” and the first time Nicholson has played a villain since his unforgettable portrayal of The Joker in 1989’s “Batman.”

At times, Nicholson’s mob boss characterization can go a little over the top, seeming a bit tired and clichéd. One scene in particular comes to mind, in which Costello sits stone-faced in a playhouse, surrounded by a bevy of female companions, and subsequently participates in a drug induced orgy (the drugs come in the form of an almost practical joke-sized bowl of cocaine in the scene.)

The only other negative thing that can be said about “The Departed” is its ending. In an otherwise gritty and realistic story, the ending deals out twist after twist almost to the point of self-mockery. Without giving anything away, the concept of a “twist ending” is very much overdone in the film.

That being said, the rest of the movie is near-flawless, playing on the aforementioned themes of identity and betrayal as best it can. Matt Damon, playing up a thicker-than-molasses “Bawston” accent, steals almost every scene he’s in, portraying the crooked Sergeant Sullivan opposite another incredible performance by Leonardo DiCaprio, who proves effortlessly that he’s still got it.

The plot of the picture is definitely the best part of “The Departed.” Its story of moles on both the good side and the evil side is classic, without being contrived. Even though “The Departed” is based on the Chinese “Infernal Affairs” trilogy, William Monahan effectively Americanizes it (and receives a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay for his efforts.)

The 2007 Academy Awards may very well see a first, as Martin Scorsese seems destined to win the Oscar for Best Director, a prize that has eluded him for the duration of his storied career.

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