Ending too late– a look at the ending of The Departed

There are some spoilers for the movie THE DEPARTED in this post.

The Departed by Martin ScorceseI missed The Departed when it came out at the theaters and when it came out on DVD but thanks to the schedule on HBO, I finally got a chance to catch it.

For the first 2 hours, I was captivated by the film and the levels of deception. The acting was outstanding, the direction tight and crisp, and the casting was excellent (Alec Baldwin is quickly becoming one of my favorite bit actors. He may not have what it takes to be a solo leading man but he’s fantastic when he’s part of a strong ensemble.) I loved the story basically.

And then they killed off Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson) twenty minutes before the credits rolled.

The problem is that when they killed off Costello (and earlier killed off Martin Sheen’s Capt. Queenan) the father figures were dead and the “sons” had no direction. When Sullivan (Matt Damon) and Costigan Jr (Leonardo DiCaprio) are left on their own with no rope or support, the movie falters with no direction or goal. Both Sullivan and Costigan were looking for approval from their father figures Sullivan needed to prove to Costello that he was a good kid, learning the game from his mentor and Costigan Jr. needed to prove to Queenan that he was a real cop. But when those father figures are gone, so is the main motivation for the main characters.

The Departed (2006)

After Costello’s death showing how well Sullivan learned from the mob boss, the movie lurches to its conclusion trying to make some point about evil and how it infects everything and everyone but not much of the individual elements of the ending blend well together. The dissolution of Sullivan’s relationship, the various shootings and double-crossings and the cat and mouse game never come together for a satisfying conclusion.

And then Scorcese ended the film in a way I never thought possible– he had a rat scurry across Sullivan’s balcony railing. Get it? The film was all about undercover agents and rats and here’s a literal rat signifying just what Sullivan was. It was a laughable and heavy-handed closing shot.

The disappointing problem is that up until the ending, The Departed was one of the best movies I’d seen in a long while (other than some Nicholson-trademarked flourishes such as tossing around cocaine like it was baby powder and his usual little twitches and ticks.) DiCaprio and Damon, two actors I can usually only take in small doses, delivered strong performances. Nicholson and Sheen played off each other nicely as the father-figures from both sides of the law. I don’t understand why Scorcese tried to peg down the ending as much as he did. The rat at the end had to be a joke, didn’t it?

[tags]Martin Scorcese, Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Martin Sheen, Jack Nicholson, Alec Baldwin, The Departed[/tags]

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