The Set of 400: #80 – My Favorite Balcony Rat

Today! Because I’m the guy who does his job. You must be the other guy –

The Departed (2006)

Directed by Martin Scorsese (x4)

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio (x5), Jack Nicholson (x6), Matt Damon (x8), Mark Wahlberg, Vera Farmiga, Alec Baldwin (x3), Martin Sheen (x2), James Badge Dale (x2), Anthony Anderson (x2), Ray Winstone, Kevin Corrigan (x2), David O’Hara, Mark Rolston (x3), Kristen Dalton

One would think that a person committed to living in apartments for as long as humanly possible would at least be in their largest one as years and successes accrue. But considering the square foot-to-penny ratio in Chicago compared to North Scranton, it is unlikely I will ever live as vastly as I did from the fall of 2005 to the summer of 2008. It wasn’t the world’s nicest apartment, but it was huge, featuring this giant open staircase area, which afforded me the opportunity of displaying wall decor far larger than I possibly could before or since. Thus, I procured the biggest movie theater poster I could find – the six-foot-by-four-foot Departed canvas, seen above. Man, whatever happened to that poster? I didn’t bring it to Chicago, because come on, the only place that would’ve fit in apartment #1 here was a ceiling.

I’ll admit, the rat is a little on the nose

It will always be remembered as the movie that finally won Scorsese Best Director, but The Departed is more than just a lifetime achievement movie. As I’ve mentioned before, I think we as a people benefited greatly from Marty’s continuous snubs, as it kept him steadily making movies. Who’s to say if he had won for any of his excellent earlier films that he would’ve slacked off, but there is some evidence directors (and actors) do this. Spielberg’s four year break after Schindler’s List. Cameron’s one film released in the 23 years since Titanic. Bigelow has only directed two movies in the ten years since The Hurt Locker. Affleck has directed one movie since Argo (Best Picture as opposed to Director, but still). Mel Gibson didn’t direct a movie for nine years after Braveheart (Okay, there might be some extenuating circumstances there)Snubs aren’t bad! Hell, Hitchcock never won an Oscar, and audiences got a new movie like every year for decades!

I don’t know how The Departed has held up in the public consciousness since ’06. It doesn’t stand up with Scorsese’s very best work, I grant you, but it’s still right in the conversation for his best movie of the last three decades. What else have you got? Hugo is pretty great, yes. The Wolf of Wall Street. Er, Casino? He’s stayed busy, and most if not all of his movies are solid and worth watching, but we’re pretty far removed from Goodfellas. 

His last film as of this writing, Silence is almost unbearably boring

In their third attempt, Scorsese and DiCaprio finally found the right fit. The Aviator is fine – kinda overlong, plus I’ve never understood the fascination with Howard Hughes (outside his wacky supporting figure in Melvin and Howard), and we’ve talked about the near-debacle of Leo in Gangs of New York. But here – totally works. Sure, he’s not the strongest thing in this movie – not when you’ve got Jack and Boston staples Damon and Wahlberg chewing up the scenery. Hell, Alec Baldwin has a bunch of fun lines in this one, too. Really, Leo has the most thankless role, as there is a lot of fun supporting color, and he’s tasked with the dour, serious lead.

It also features possibly the most surprising character death ever in a movie. I’m sure you can come up with rival examples – Jack Vincennes in L.A. Confidential, for instance; Wash in Serenity; Bing Bong (I can’t even think about Bing Bong, you guys) – but the death here (I know you’ve had like fourteen years to see it, but I still feel bad spoiling the end of the movie in this post – the above deaths aren’t the climaxes of any of those movies) is so disconcertingly stunning that it’s hard to grasp for a few moments. Not just for shock alone do I mention it though – the wrap-up to this movie is excellent.

Seriously, leave Bing Bong out of this

Sure, I have a few issues – Really? Off-screen Costello entrusted Billy alone with those recordings? Pretty convenient – but all in all, it’s a really solid cops-and-gangsters flick, with a wonderfully over the top Nicholson and the best performance Wahlberg (Dirk Diggler notwithstanding) is ever likely to give . Scorsese (#388 Wolf of Wall Street, #167 Gangs of New York, #360 Cape Fear) joins the Four-Timers directing wing, the 13th entrant, and I’m as surprised as anyone to find this is my second favorite of his films. We’ll talk more about everything when we get to the top movie.

Lots of repeat offenders here, with Leo (The Wolf of Wall Street, Gangs of New York, #296 Titanic, #96 Django) going to the Fives and Jack (#182 Cuckoo’s Nest, #368 Anger Management, #310 Mars Attacks!, #207 A Few Good Men, #121 The Shining) to the Sixes, but it’s Damon (Bournes #118 Identity, #195 Supremacy, #129 Ultimatum, #186 Talented Mr. Ripley, #94 The Informant!, #208 Jay and Silent Bob, #249 Ocean’s Eleven) logjamming the Eight-Timers, now at six members, with no Nine-Timers as yet! Who will be the first? Should we be counting Damon for Team America? He’d already be there!

Coming tomorrow! Nobody thinks in terms of human beings. Governments don’t. Why should we?

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