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2 January, 2008

Review: The Departed (2006)

I wasn't sure whether I wanted to see this, as I resent the idea that 'Mou gaan dou' ('Internal Affairs'), a wonderful 2004 film which just happens to be in Chinese, needed to be remade for an Anglophone audience too lazy to read subtitles.

This is the bit where I say "actually, it was pretty good", right?

And it was. Because the original was pretty good. The American version had a big-name director, but that didn't disguise the fact that it was the same film, merely moved from Hong Kong to Boston and reduced to a showcase for big-name Hollywood stars (who, frankly, merely provided their standard, well-established performances). Well, with the graphic violence turned up a notch, and the ending totally ruined by 'closure'.
I think its carbon-copy nature is my main problem with 'The Departed': it doesn't complement 'Infernal Affairs', it replaces it; if you've seen one, there's little reason to see the other. No doubt most people (outside Hong Kong/China) will choose the Martin Scorsese movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, et al. over the Wai-keung Lau/Siu Fai Mak film starring Andy Lau and Tony Leung, thereby burying the latter (deservedly in the IMDb Top 250, 'Infernal Affairs' is currently 193 places below 'The Departed'). And that's a great shame: money will take precedence over originality.

This is the bit where I hope to fight back a little. Watch 'Infernal Affairs'. Avoid the rip-off. Not 'only' as a matter of respect to the original film-makers, but because theirs is the better-realised setting, offering greater insight into the characters' inner turmoil (with no simplistic resolution) – and two good sequels.


Now, granted, by the time I saw The Departed I couldn't remember everything about Infernal Affairs but I thought the two were sufficiently different to justify TD's existence. Yes, I preferred Infernal Affairs, because it was tighter, and more atmospheric (and I saw it first) but The Departed *is* good as well. I seem to recall TD doesn't feature that morse code finger tapping scene from IA which was one of my favourites, and rolls 2 female characters into 1 I believe. What I liked about TD was that it took the basic setup from IA and merged it with the real life Boston story involving James Bulger - that made it a more commendable and interesting effort than the usual Hollywood remake.

As for the acting, if you think Mark Wahlberg is that good every time then you'd be disappointed if you watched his back catalogue. Alec Baldwin is also excellent. As for the leads, yes, Nicholson phones it in, but Damon is good, and DiCaprio is really good.

Posted by Jan B at January 3, 2008 10:36 PM
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