Sunday, February 4, 2007

Where I Departed with The Departed

It looks like Scorsese will be racking up this awards season. DGA gave him the nod. Critics continue to pile on the props.

The Departed is a great piece of work.

So, why on earth would I even offer up my own thoughts? Stupidity? Arrogance? Or maybe I’m entitled to my own opinion, right? I know, I know, opinions are highly overrated. But, in keeping with a long standing American tradition, I will offer mine.

I couldn’t wait to see The Departed. Granted, I had not seen the original film on which this was based, but the premise sounded amazing - and still does. Let me start by saying I was completely entertained. After all, isn’t that the numero uno function of a movie? ENTERTAINMENT.

But..., every now and then, a film goes beyond that. They give us more than we anticipated. More depth, more reach... simply, they give us more. I’ve been known to have high expectations, maybe a bit too high. I’m working on that... not really.

Let me also state - out of 5 stars, I would give it 4 1/2. Maybe even 4.75. So why not five? Because I’m arrogant and stupid. And... there was one moment that was completely dropped. One key, defining moment. Now, granted, I might have missed the moment. I only saw the film once in the theatre. I’m anxiously awaiting the DVD so I can watch it over a few times and prove myself WRONG. Maybe even the one reader of this blog can prove me wrong. I so want to believe I missed the moment.

If these two characters - Billy and Conlin - are on opposite sides of each other, and then they cross over to the other’s side, at which point do they connect/intersect? Yeah, it sounds like a math problem.

I thought DiCaprio did an amazing job - AMAZING. Every line was delivered like he owned it. I was blown away by his performance.

However, I missed the moment - the exact moment, where Billy becomes lost in his fake persona - where it was no longer an act. Where he was trapped and, if he took one more step, he would be lost to the other side completely - because of his desire to be part of that world. That that world offered him something his previous one could never. I know, I know, some might argue that we constantly saw him trapped, that he feared he was going to be stuck there and eventually found out and killed. But I never, for one moment, felt that he wanted to be there. That something inside of HIM was pulling him towards the life of crime. That he had a “flicker” of enjoyment of being in that kind of world and situation. It didn’t have to be long - just a millisecond. A scary, ah-ha moment where Conlin’s world might not be such a bad place - and that he, Billy, for one second becomes Conlin. That Billy, at one point, had control of a choice he must act on, and not that he was a pawn completely being pushed and placed.

The same thing goes for Conlin, and I feel more so. At no point did I ever feel that Conlin might want out of his past. He had a job to do, and he did it, but he never seemed to stray from it emotionally. No moment when he could see a life without crime, a dream he might have had at one point - even if that point lasted all of 1 second.

The moment lost to me was the moment when these two characters became ONE, the point of intersection in their criss-crossing. The film seemed to set up this possibility in its premise and structure. But for me, it never delivered that one moment. The moment that these two characters saw each other - not literally, of course, but that they felt the desire to stay trapped in their alter ego - the desire for the other one’s life/world. At what point did either feel seduced by that other world? Again, some might argue Madolyn represented this. That’s too long of an argument for me to enter in, but let me just say, at no point did I ever truly believe that either Billy or Conlin loved this woman. She represented a time-out when they needed a breather - like with any other sports game. At times, she was even the penalty box. But enough sports metaphors.

Does this movie work without giving me that moment? HELL, YEAH. That’s the reason for the 4.5 stars. But... you knew it was coming... that’s the point of beyond I’m talking about. Some critics have labeled The Departed an “instant classic”; his greatest work; a masterpiece. I don’t know, maybe my expectation of greatness might be a little too much.

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