At first, I thought that my lofty forecast of greatness was going to yield me my said prediction. The film starts off fantastically, with Jack Nicholson reviving his smarmy, charismatic bad-guy role to introduce the film. There is nary an actor working, maybe in the history of film that can run a scene as well as Nicholson. His presence is legendary, he knows it, and he makes the most of it. After him, along came the introductions to the rest of the all-star cast, with the plot set-up brilliantly executed. I was sure I was in for a good time.
I wasn't wrong, per say, for the majority of the picture, and about halfway through I came to terms that this was the kind of film that Scorsese made for fun more than anything else. It wasn't going to have the kind of depth that characterized most of his earlier work, and was made merely for entertainment, and I was okay with that. "The Departed" seemed to be more in the tone of "Out of Sight" or really any other of Elmore Leonard novel-to-film adaptations. I may have been slightly disappointed, but a movie like that is good to watch every once in a while, and a good movie like that is rare; I felt like I should take advantage of it. The characters were great to watch (especially Mark Wahlberg who lights up the screen with his best role to date), and DiCaprio makes the most out of his scenes with Nicholson with chemistry as exceptional as anything I've seen since Johnny Depp and Al Pacino teamed up in Donnie Brasco. If this was to be the structure, then I didn't mind that some of the ferocity and emotion was compromised for style; style is the point.
When a film is built like this, with a plot that continually builds towards its ending, there is a risk that the ending betrays the build-up, and disappoints the viewer. Spike Lee's "The Inside Man" was built in this way, and was entertaining for the most part, but the intrigue and suspense that the movie was constructing ended up all being for naught, as it ultimately failed to live up to its mystery. Sadly, "The Departed" is even more of a let down. Where "The Inside Man" merely dissatisfies, "The Departed" is downright insulting. It throws characters that we aren't even familiar with into important plot twists, while ignoring more important characters and plot points. And damn it, I wish I could say more, but I can't. Let's just say that the ending is over-long, contrived, and not only not well thought-out, but borderline stupid.
There are fallacies that a film can commit that I can forgive, and there are those that I can't. When a movie's intention is to build into a gripping climax, but ends up self-destructing, that is a critical flaw. It doesn't matter how stylish, how well-acted, or otherwise well-constructed it is.