The Departed Wasn’t a Very Good Movie
Not that it matters, but…
If only life were as anxious to make good for past mistakes as is the Motion Picture Academy. I’m sure Martin Scorcese’s a fine person, but there were seriously much better movies available to choose from this year.
The Departed, if you haven’t seen it, is mostly just an excuse to show off Boston accents and stage a bunch of fist fights. Or, to be scientific about it, here are all the major problems with the movie:
1. Aimless Plotting. The movie never seems like it sure about where it’s going and wanders aimlessly. The ending (careful, spoiler) feels arbitrary and unearned. It was like, Leo was going to win, but when they get to the ground floor, there’s suddenly this other guy who I’d assumed was just an extra for the entire film who, instead, causes the story to do a 180 just a few minutes before the finish line. Ugh.
2. Stagnant Characters. The characters do not change in this movie. No one learns anything. No one transcends themselves. Everyone is the exact same person at the end of the movie as they were at the beginning. There were times when Leo almost got interesting, struggling to keep his head above water as a “good person” leading a “bad life” for the “right reasons”. But rather than plumb those depths, each time Leo seemed to be struggling, he somehow got together with Matt’s girlfriend (um, contrived?) and after that everything seemed a-okay. I suppose maybe the oxycontin helped, but oxycontin as a plot device? Ugh.
3. Dumb Casting. Mark Wahlberg is an A-list actor. Mark Wahlberg’s character gets dismissed from the movie with a half hour left in it. Guess who, then, comes back to finish the movie off? Right.
4. Conspicuous Words. I don’t know why anyone, in 2007, still thinks that the f-word carries any weight. Certainly Scorcese must, since he had his characters use it probably 100 times during the course of the film. Listen, *any* word (articles and prepositions aside) that gets used more than a few times over the course of a movie starts becoming conspicuous. If you use the f-word as many times as it gets used in this one, all you’re really saying is that the writers aren’t very good at coming up with ways to express characters’ personalities through dialogue. Try again. Oh wait, too late.
5. Plot Holes. Aside from the story being muddy and often aimless, the story relies on plot holes to get through to its end. Matt Damon can, on his own authority, just erase Leo? I mean, that would work if this were MI:4 or something, but this is a pretentious Oscar-bait movie. Please.
6. Torpid Pacing. When you cram a 90-minute movie into a 150-minute running time, the pacing is going to be off. Nothing significant happens in this movie — at least, nothing significant enough to warrant 2.5 hours. The story refuses to build on itself and instead just hops from event to event without, well, direction.
7. No Stakes, No Sympathy. There’s no reason to care about any of the characters in this movie. They’re mostly unsympathetic (although I felt for Leo by the middle of the show), especially Matt Damon, who was about as boring a villain as I can easily recollect. The story, for the most part, just doesn’t matter.
Beyond the above, IMHO a “best picture” should also be a necessary movie. There was nothing necessary about this one. The plot was purely external and certainly didn’t do anything that hadn’t been done before. The movie’s only intent was entertainment — violent, bloody, senseless entertainment.
Flags of Our Fathers had a couple issues, but was significantly better than this (and altogether more necessary). United 93 was essentially flawless, entirely unblinking, and fascinatingly innovative in its approach. It hurts a little that it lost out to a movie that garnered its awards based on the Academy feeling that it was Scorcese’s turn.
Not that it matters.