The Departed sure were scared, anxious, and paranoid alright

The DepartedIn Martin Scorcese’s 2006 crime film The Departed we are introduced to William Costigan, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, who is an undercover cop working for Frank Costello the Irish Mob boss from Boston, played by Jack Nicholson. Then we also have Colin Sullivan, played by Matt Damon, who acts as Costello’s inside man in the police department. Throughout the film each of these characters elicit fear, anxiety and paranoia. The character that most strongly feels these emotions is DiCaprio’s William Costigan. Costigan is introduced to the dark, demented world that is the Irish mob. Every day he fears for his life, thinking any minute it could be his last. His anxiety and paranoia strengthens so much so he begins going to therapy and taking prescription drugs. He feels that either Costello is going to find him out or that his own police force is going to give up on him and allow him to rot in the depth of the criminal underworld.

As for Sullivan, Damon’s character, his only concern for most of the movie is keeping Costello happy. Costello is a sociopath and at any minute can flip. If Costello demands something Sullivan needs to get it done, no questions asked. There are several times where we see Sullivan struggling to not only keep up his charade with the police, but also keeping up with Costello’s orders. It all leads up to the climax of the film at the construction site where Sullivan finally kills Costello because of Costello’s past as informant…in other words Costello has been known to use his informants, his “rats,” on the inside as scapegoats if he is ever caught by the police.

Costello, as I stated before is a complete sociopath who trusts no one. His only confidant was Frenchie, ironically enough, once Frenchie died Costello soon followed. Costello is a force to be reckoned with, yet by the end of the film we see that he brings on his own demise through his paranoia…he doesn’t allow for anyone to get close enough to him. I can understand that it is hard to trust people, especially in a business like his, however the extent to which his paranoia led him brought on isolation and solitude. He ran the mob with fear, terrorizing his own men to keep them loyal.

The Departed, a remake of the 2002 Chinese film Infernal Affairs, does an amazing job uniting the three themes of fear, anxiety, and paranoia. I actually watched Infernal Affairs a few  year ago (my best friend’s dad loves Chinese and Japanese films, all types) before The Departed and it was really good…it’s no wonder why The Departed has had so much success. It’s on Netflix for DVD rental and I think if you have the time you should really take a look at it. It is a little different from Scorcese’s film but great nonetheless. Scorcese ties in these intricate, complex characters and weaves them together to form this masterpiece.

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P.S. There is a chase scene in The Departed through a Chinatown in Boston that is very reminiscent of the scene at the end of The Lady from Shanghai by Orson Welles.

The Departed

One thought on “The Departed sure were scared, anxious, and paranoid alright

  1. Stephen, thank you very much for bringing up a Scorcese film. The guy is an absolute genius and I love how this entire movie revolves around the whole theme of fear, anxiety, and paranoia. Not only are the characters in a constant state of fear and paranoia but so is the audience. In The Departed, the audience is never able to predict what will happen next and hence, we are kept on our toes. For example, there is a scene in the movie when Costello orders one of his men to pat down DiCaprio and before we know it, Costello’s man is smashing DiCaorio’s broken hand against a pool table! The day to day lives of the mobsters are as exciting as their personalities and this keeps the suspense rolling throughout the entire film. To me, this is obviously an example of film noir because it has the overall theme of urban crime and corruption but it is interesting that Scorcese doesn’t emphasize the use of traditional film noir techniques (dark lighting, shadows, etc.)


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