It’s rare for a remake, especially a remake of an acclaimed foreign film, to come close to the original in any way. Often Hollywood comes across a clever or interesting foreign film and tries to mainstream it, turning an idea that works extremely well in the original country but fails to translate to an American context.
I was fairly optimistic about The Departed, however. The original film, Infernal Affairs (2002), was what they call an instant classic, a Hong Kong gangster film that was both fresh and compelling. When I heard Martin Scorsese was filming the remake, substituting Irish gangsters for Hong Kong triads, I thought it had the potential to be an excellent film. Thankfully, Scorsese has delivered an interesting, entertaining film that manages to maintain faithful to the original film while standing as a separate entity.
The cast Scorsese assembled for The Departed is impressive, made all the more impressive by the fact these aren’t just names above the marquee: every actor delivers a solid, credible performance (save a slight tendency to chew the scenery from Jack Nicholson, a fact easily forgiven, however). Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio and Ray Winstone are particular standouts, with Alec Baldwin continuing his recent tradition of strong supporting roles.
Technically, The Departed is as good as any of Scorsese’s recent films. The editing is sharp and crisp, never letting the viewer grow complacent. The soundtrack is also spot-on, a nice combination of Irish-American punk courtesy of The Dropkick Murphys and old Scorsese standards.
Is this film better than Goodfellas, as some have claimed? I don’t think so, but that’s an impossible standard to maintain. What The Departed is, comparisons aside, is an entertaining and sharp American crime film filled with great performances and an involving narrative. What else would you expect from Martin Scorsese?