Sunday, February 25, 2007

Heaven holds the faithful departed

I saw "The Departed" last night and I was rather impressed. I've not seen any of the other films nominated in the major categories, but I'm guessing that Martin Scorsese will finally get his Oscar. "The Departed" was not his best film but it was a good movie, perhaps even a great movie, and good enough for the Academy to want to give Scorsese an Oscar to make up for the other times he should have won. (Which isn't to say I agree with giving someone an Oscar just because he or she was slighted in the past. Peter Travers recently noted that Kevin Costner has a Best Director Oscar, while Stanley Kubrick, Robert Altman and Alfred Hitchcock never won one. In whose company would Scorsese rather be?)

Scorsese certainly got some impressive performances out of his ensemble cast, but like a lot of people, I'm a bit surprised to see Mark Wahlberg nominated for Best Supporting Actor. His scenes with Leonardo DiCaprio were entertaining, but I just don't think we saw enough from him to justify a nomination even in the supporting category. Alec Baldwin was great fun to watch, but his performance might have been a bit too hammy for the Academy's tastes. (Though no one delivers snappy dialogue quite like Baldwin, and his character was very well drawn. I enjoyed the scene in which he started beating the surveillance technician; it demonstrated that for all the his egotistic bluster, he took being a cop seriously.) Matt Damon gave an affecting performance, though it might have been hard to nominate him (for Best Actor, most likely) without nominating DiCaprio.

"The Departed" put a fresh spin on an old theme--the notion that cops and criminals are two sides of the same coin. Nothing typified this idea more than the film's ending (spoiler ahead) in which Wahlberg's Dignam guns down Damon's Colin Sullivan. It was the only justice left for Sullivan, a dirty cop who had managed to destroy all evidence of his own corruption. As crime boss Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson) had said earlier in the film, there's no difference between a cop and criminal when you are looking down the barrel of a gun.

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