The Departed (2006) Cops Or Criminals?

RATING: 3.5/5

DIRECTOR: Martin Scorsese


One must wonder how Hollywood actors work on set when their characters are complex and so intertwined with each other. Should an actor stay in character during off days? There is a sense that all major actors in Scorsese’s The Departed kept out of each other’s way for the sake of their character’s on screen hostility towards each other. Rumour even circulated that Jack Nicholson drew a real loaded gun on Leonardo DiCaprio for the sake of a reaction.

The Departed is a remake of Hong Kong crime thriller Infernal Affairs (2002). The key difference between the two films is Scorsese adding two elements which is evident in all his films, ambition and father- son themes.

The film is a cops and mobsters film set in Boston. Jack Nicholson plays Frank Costello who is a local mobster that owns the neighbourhood. He identifies and father’s young Colin Sullivan. The boy soon becomes an adult and Sullivan (Damon) joins the State Police. While this is happening Billy Costigan (DiCaprio) is in Queenan’s office after completing his State Police recruitment. Sheen plays Queenan and Wahlberg plays Dignam in a role he was born to play.  Costigan is told that he’s too good to be a cop.

” You had 1400 on your SAT’s kid, you’re an astronaut not a statie,” he’s told.

The very fact that Costigan’s skills are recognised by superiors straight out of Police training tells us he’s already risen through the ranks and reached the ceiling. His ambition of living as a cop have been dropped because the only way his ambition can rise is to go back to the street undercover. The deal for Costigan is to infiltrate Costello’s mob while continuing to be a cop. Meanwhile Sullivan rises fast as a cop  assigned straight to plain clothes out of the Academy. Now he infiltrates the Police to send  information back to his father figure Costello and crew.

Both Costigan and Sullivan have to live double standard lives. Are they cops or criminals? Costigan now risen in the ranks of the mob has to pretend to be violent at a cost to his own ethics and the only trustworthy father figure in Queenan can not do anything to save him. Sullivan is in charge of taking down Costello but he is the only one working for him so how far does he take his role? Is his ambition saving himself or helping those around him?

The film is reliably good and has some classic Scorsese moments that are executed well.


Who are the good guys in the film? 

Costigan, simply because he’s a cop along with Queenan and Dignam? His actions aren’t good but ethically he’s the law.

Who are the bad guys?

Costello, crew and Sullivan because they are deceiving those around them.  But hold hold on, Costello is being the most honest person in the story and upfront with his values.

Deception is only deception the minute one picks a side. This film wants you to pick one.

“We deal in deception here. What we do not deal with is self-deception.”   Queenan.


Leonardo DiCaprio as Billy Costigan

Matt Damon as Colin Sullivan

Jack Nicholson as Frank Costello

Martin Sheen as Queenan

Mark Wahlberg as Dignam

Alec Baldwin as Ellerby


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