Finally, he’s back—back from the nonsense of germophobic aviators, ancient turf wars and the notion that we ever came to him for epics about heroes. From Scorsese, we want epics about stupid jerks. The Departed shares the same lead actor from his last two pictures, but suddenly DiCaprio is perfect, tapping into his silver-tongued weaselliness as a Boston cop lying his way into the Irish underworld. You’ll have to go back to GoodFellas to find a Marty movie this fun, this enamored of language, of ethnic slurs, of “Gimme Shelter,” of explosive violence. Scorsese’s return to form is the year’s most dynamic film. Really, how could it not be?
Based on Infernal Affairs, a finely complex Asian policier from 2002 (this is ten times better), the plotting has much the same wit as Face/Off, with DiCaprio’s precarious dive mirrored by the spectacular rise of a clean-cut detective (Damon, equally well cast), secretly compromising the force for the benefit of his decadent gangster patron (an unhinged Nicholson, which is saying a lot). You know the two pretenders will eventually clash—our first taste is a silent cell-phone showdown worthy of Michael Mann’s Heat—but Scorsese ratchets up the tension in a two-and-a-half-hour feast of absorbing incident, the pair sharing a feisty therapist and bed partner (Down to the Bone’s Farmiga) and getting off on their roles. Unexpectedly, the prevailing mood is one of bizarre, cutup comedy, exploited by a supporting cast that would shame most topliners: Alec Baldwin (in his unpredictable Miami Blues register), Martin Sheen, Ray Winstone and the superbly rude Mark Wahlberg. (Opens Fri; Click here for venues.) — Joshua Rothkopf
Cast and crew