Boston Massacre


I feel like an ingrate about The Departed, Martin Scorsese’s latest. Scripted by William Monahan, this is a cops-and-robbers melodrama that contains everything you want in a thriller: riveting action, sufficiently believable characters, steamy sex, a plot with entertaining twists, and a colorful milieu (Irish Americans in South Boston) rendered with zesty detail. So what’s not to like? Well...though this is a movie crammed with good things, it’s also a movie that feels crammed. What should have been a 100-minute entertainment has ended up as a 150-minute attempt at serious character study and moral analysis. To be sure, the suspense is never quite defused; several sequences will keep you on the edge of your seat. But neither is the film trim. The Departed is like an athlete who has spent as much time in therapy as on the playing field, and, with a layer of fat he can’t afford, shows as much strain as strength. The crowd applauds several brilliant feats but winds up feeling as exhausted as the athlete.

Yet I can well understand why Monahan and Scorsese felt their story needed depth as well as heat. Here is a tale of false fathers and betraying sons. There are two young Irish-Catholic protagonists: Colin Sullivan and Billy Costigan, both the products of fractured families. In his childhood, Sullivan (Matt Damon) acquires a dangerous father figure in the mobster Frank Costello (portrayed by Jack Nicholson...

To read the rest of this article please login or become a subscriber.

About the Author

Richard Alleva has been reviewing movies for Commonweal since 1990.