Second Student Post- Paranoia in The Departed

I chose a scene from Martin Scorcese’s The Departed, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, and Jack Nicholson. The movie is a crime thriller which follows the lives of DiCaprio’s character, Billy Costigan, and Damon’s Colin Sullivan. Costigan is a cop who is working undercover to help bring down notorious crime boss Frank Costello (who is loosely based on the criminal of the same name in real life). Meanwhile, Sullivan is also a cop, but he secretly works for Costello as his mole in the police department. Eventually, it becomes Costigan’s job not only to bring down Costello, but determine who his mole within the department is, while Sullivan is supposed to help Costello figure out who the rat in his crew is. Both characters are looking for each other. As the movie progresses, each character becomes increasingly paranoid, afraid of their true identities being revealed. The scene I chose is the first time the two characters speak to each other, or to put it better are actually in contact. I think the editing in this scene is extremely effective. The constant switching back and forth between Colin and Billy’s faces help illustrate how nervous each one is. A nervous Costigan is recieving a phone call from his dead mentor’s cellphone (for those of you who haven’t seen the movie the phone that Matt Damon’s character is holding belonged to a man who was murdered in the previous scene), while Colin realizes that he is now contacting the man who has been trying to find him for so long. The scene’s close up on their faces reveals each character’s fear. Also, the fact that each character is afraid to speak reveals their paranoia. Costigan already has a bag packed because of his paranoia of being discovered. Meanwhile, the scene helps address the social contexts of hidden identities within the film,  how people are not really what they seem. It suggests that we need to be paranoid about who we can trust, because everyone can have hidden agendas. To everyone except for Costigan’s mentor and his assistant ( who are played by Martin Sheen and Mark Wahlberg), Costigan is a lowlife scumbag who commits crimes, while Colin Sullivan is the intelligent, honest man. When in fact, these roles are really reverse. Costigan does the right thing, and Sullivan is really the criminal. The movie points out that people aren’t always who they seem to be, and we have to be careful when deciding who to trust. This scene reminds me of The Manchurian Candidate, when Raymond Shaw discovers that his mother set him up to become a brainwashed assassin. The woman that was supposed to protect him and have his best interests at heart, betrayed him. She had her own secret agenda. I believe the two films are similar because they send the same messages of trust and paranoia.

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3 responses to “Second Student Post- Paranoia in The Departed

  1. I have mixed feelings about The Departed every time I watched it, mainly because it’s a remake of Hong Kong’s “Infernal Affairs”. I love TD’s characters and cinematography, but at the same time I’m taken aback because a lot of parts/ tricks are cop-out of IA. Nonetheless, they are both great films and clearly displays cynical view of the corruption happening in their governments: TD displays the conflict in South Boston between the state police force and Irish-American crime; IA suggests the corruption between police department and the triads in Hong Kong. I agree that TD portrays the paranoia of not knowing who to trust very well, because human always hidden agenda and objectives.

  2. Scorsese used “Infernal Affairs” for the base plot, but mainly shaped the film from the Irish mob boss Whitey Bulger. I haven’t seen IA but my guess would be that the differences would probably stem from Scorsese trying to draw connections between Costello and Bulger. Scorsese never admitted to basing Costello off of Bulger, but I did a research paper on it last semester and there are way too many similarities for it to be coincidence (from everything to his right hand man, Mr. French, to the decorations in his apartment).

  3. I was personally very surprised and underwhelmed with how much “The Departed” looks and feels like “Infernal Affairs.” As Charis mentions, virtually all best moments in Scorsese’s films come from the Hong Kong original, and really very little seems to be Scorsese’s contribution…

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