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Infernal Affairs: Watched it about three years too late, but what is ever too late…: the same story as below-mentioned Departed, but imagined six years earlier by what played then as HongKong’s finest: Leung, Lau and the rest of the impressive cast. The antagonists are intense, the setting is cool, the suits and tieless shirts super-cool, and now would be the time to go to HongKong’s Peak and watch look down looking very Leung’ish. Quite limited, rather … stark in its direction, but effective nonetheless.

And upon watching The Departed again right afterwards, I really have to stress how much genius there is in Scorsese: the direction is richer, fuller, more arabesque, but in a nice and savory way. Of course the setting demands that, and even more than upon watching it for the first time, I see the achivement here. Very good Alec Baldwin, de Caprio, Matt Damon acting.

The Departed: A lot of expectations, and too much chattering about whether or not the film would enable its director some oddly belated lifetime achievement Oscar. The story is well-organised, given the usual danger in mobster films of having too many characters plotting at the same time against too many government depaartmens, police squads, other gangsters and whomever. It was easy to follow, and the characters were established in a sufficiently pleasant and oversketched way so that their motivations were never obscure. I like that, I have to say. I keep being overwhelmed by plot or character complexities, getting angry at scriptwriters who try to prove that they can keep it all together, that they can add a couple of smaller and bigger issues, bring in more fistfuls of support characters with their own problems and still finish the film within 125 minutes. So: the film is sufficiently simple to be good. The actors are quite interesting, too. Casting De Caprio in this role of Billy Costigan was rather apparent, but Matt Damon was a bit of a dangerous choice. Too slick, to much off-the-shelf Kevin Bacon material, a bit too boring in appearance, I think. It works, though. He must be the straight police goodie to make his evilness work (or is evil? Maybe he is just on the same level of outright commercialness that we all are, just in another environment). I admit that I do not know where the hype about mark Wahlberg’s performance comes from, as – without trying to discredit it – it’s a comic relief part he is playing there, and overdoing big style is not what you should get an Oscar for. Or may it is, see Rain Man. Overcraziness is a good part of this film, and it’s a good opportunity to mention Jack Nicholson and his pleasant madness that I find much more decent than in, say, About Schmidt’s slapstick moments (this is in direct opposition to what Dargis writes in the NYT, if anyone cares: http://movies2.nytimes.com/2006/10/06/movies/06depa.html).

While there are a couple of issues I have with the film that I did not find too pleasing (more comprehensively analysed by the press reviewers, but let’s mention the apparently desperate effort to get a woman into that film, and the failure of the script writers in doing so), all in all I stick to what you are supposed to say it: Scorsese not 100 per cent up to form, but as close as he got in 20 years. I do not expect anything drastically independent and artistic in style of him anymore. I think you lose that once you get chewed up by the film establishment. But as long as now and again he comes up with things like “Departed”‘s final minutes, or some “Bringing out the Dead” darkness, or some “Casino” title sequences, I will keep loving him and thanking the world of film for making the world a better place.

Here’s the overview over the most important reviews: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0407887/externalreviews, and special reference maybe to the one by Salon.com: http://www.salon.com/ent/movies/review/2006/10/06/departed/

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