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Film: The Departed

Francis, it's a nation of fucking rats.

The Departed is a 2006 American crime-thriller film and remake of the 2002 Hong Kong crime thriller Infernal Affairs.

The Departed was directed by Martin Scorsese, written by William Monahan, produced by Graham King, Brad Pitt, and Brad Grey, and stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, and Mark Wahlberg. The film was nominated for five Academy Awards at the 79th Academy Awards of which it won four; Best Picture for Graham King, Best Director for Martin Scorsese, Best Adapted Screenplay for William Monahan and Best Film Editing for Thelma Schoonmaker. It was the first Best Director win for Scorsese. Mark Wahlberg was also nominated for Best Supporting Actor (he lost to Alan Arkin for Little Miss Sunshine)

In Boston, Massachusetts, notorious Irish Mob boss Frank Costello takes neighborhood boy Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) under his wing, and grooms him to be his informant within the Massachusetts State Police. Sullivan rises through the rank and file to get himself placed on an investigation unit that is working to bring down Costello.

Meanwhile, Billy Costigan, Jr. (Leonardo DiCaprio) is seeking to become a cop, despite the fact that he comes from a family that has a very disreputable past and numerous ties to organized crime. His interviewers eventually decide, when Costigan refuses to be intimidated out of dropping out of the academy, to arrange for him to go to prison on a trumped-up assault charge, giving him a criminal record and street cred so that he can infiltrate Costello's crew. When both sides of the law realize the situation, both Sullivan and Costigan attempt to discover the other mole's true identity before being found out.


This Movie Contains Examples Of:

  • Academy Award: It was nominated for five Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Film Editing. It won four of them, only losing Mark Wahlberg's nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
  • Age Cut: Colin Sullivan has one at the beginning to transition from his youth to him in the police academy.
  • Alliterative Name: Madolyn Madden.
  • All Psychology Is Freudian:
  • Animal Motifs: Rats are a common motif. The last shot features a rat scurrying across a balcony with the state house in the background.
  • Anti-Hero: Costigan is a Pragmatic Hero. He participates in some pretty bad shit and is certainly a real Badass.
  • Anyone Can Die: Almost everyone can and will.
  • Artistic License - Law: Colin Sullivan is assigned to a detective role immediately upon graduating from the police academy for the Massachusetts State Police. In reality, all of these State Troopers are immediately assigned to field training in uniformed patrol upon graduation and can expect three to five years of patrol work before they are even considered for any other role or promotion in the agency.
  • Asshole Victim:
    • The police's view on Miles Kennefik, killed by Costello's crew. Captain Ellerby points out, "We're not here to solve the case of the missing scumbag. We're here to nail Costello."
    • Frank Costello himself gets killed by Colin Sullivan. And Fitzy and the rest of Costello's men. Subverted with Delahunt in that he doesn't count because it is revealed that he kept Costigan's identity as a spy a secret because he himself is also an undercover cop.
    • And at the end, Barrigan and finally, Sullivan himself.
  • Ax-Crazy: Frank Costello embodies this trope.
  • Battle of Wits: Sullivan vs. Costigan - find out who the other guy is without giving away your own identity. Begin.
  • Being Good Sucks: Costigan remains loyal to the police throughout the whole movie. He spends time in prison and gets a criminal record to gain street cred so he can infiltrate Costello's organization, is roundly abused by his allies (especially Dignam), and is finally murdered ignominiously for his trouble.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Anyone who can understand Cantonese will get what the Chinese were ranting about, though their accents are off.
    Chinese Mob Boss: What is wrong with you?! I've been waiting and waiting. This guy's from the government, man! If he gets caught he'll have to kill himself.
    Costello's Translator: The boss doesn't think it's wise to bring automatic weapons. Are you crazy? Put your weapons away! Quick! Come on!
    Chinese Mob Boss: Put the guns down.... I'm ordering you, check the goods.
  • Big "Shut Up!": Costigan to Sullivan, punctuating each syllable with a punch to the face.
  • Black and Gray Morality
  • Blast Out: At one point a squad of cops follow Costello's men, with Sullivan ordering them to stay back and watch. Eventually they get fed up with this, ignore Sullivan's orders and charge in with guns blazing. The result is multiple casualties on both sides.
  • Blood from the Mouth: Costello following his gut wound. He literally gushes blood once Sullivan double-taps him.
  • Book Ends: Bags of groceries containing two quarts of milk and two loaves of bread figures prominently in Sullivan's first and last scenes.
  • California Doubling: New York stands in for Boston in some scenes.
    • In most scenes ... Scorsese wanted to shoot in Boston, but there were issues, and New York offered a tax credit, so they only shot in Boston for a week to use scenery that was identifiably Boston.
    • However, due to the success of the film and the academy awards it earned, a 25% tax credit was created for filmmaking in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Subsequent films that take place in Boston, like The Town, have hence been shot on location, and several films that are set elsewhere have been made in Massachusetts.
  • Canon Foreigner: Sgt. Dignam has no equivalent character in the original Infernal Affairs film, where the police captain is the only person who knows the police mole's identity. This makes Dignam's reappearance at the end more predictable for people who have seen the original.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The envelope.
  • Chekhov's Gunman:
    • Barrigan, literally.
    • Dignam, who walks out of the film 40 minutes before the end seemingly for good, letting Costigan and Sullivan face off uninterrupted, before coming back in at the very end to wrap up the plot.
  • Chewing the Scenery: "I smell a rat." In fact Nicholson almost literally chews the scenery when doing his bizarre imitation of a "gnawing, cheese-eating fucking rat."
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Costello. He even screws over the Chinese government when he gets a chance.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: 237 times total throughout the film. A lot of them are from Dignam.
  • Country Matters: This gem:
    Oliver Queenan: Do you know what we do here? My section?
    Billy Costigan: Sir, yes, sir. I have an idea...
    Dignam: [interrupting] Whoa, whoa, whoa. Let's say you have no idea and leave it at that, okay? No idea. Zip. None. If you had an idea of what we do, we would not be good at what we do, now would we? We would be cunts. Are you calling us cunts?
    Oliver Queenan: Staff Sergeant Dignam has a style of his own. I'm afraid we all have to get used to it.
  • Cruel Mercy: Once he sees the jig is up, Sullivan begs Costigan to kill him. Response: "I am killing you."
  • Cut His Heart Out with a Spoon: "I'm gonna tear your fucking arm off and shove it up your fucking ass!!" (And this is a cop talking.)
  • Da Chief: Captain Queenan
  • Deadpan Snarker: Sergeant Dignam in spades.
  • Death by Adaptation: In Infernal Affairs, the character equivalent to Sullivan is a Karma Houdini who walks away scot-free by the end of the movie. In The Departed, he is killed by Dignam, a character who has no counterpart in the original, and who's added to the adaptation for pretty much this purpose alone.
  • Death Is Dramatic: Averted. One of the three leading actors is killed instantly with no warning whatsoever.
  • Detective Mole: Sullivan.
  • Dirty Cop: Sullivan. Ironically, he's not very well liked within the department because everyone thinks that he's using his squeaky clean record (and a whole lot of asskissing) to get ahead. In a way, Costigan is technically one of these given that he is sent to prison on a trumped-up assault charge so that he can have an official criminal record and street cred before infiltrating Costello's crew, given his family's background.
  • Disappeared Dad: One of the major themes of the film.
  • Downer Ending: And what a downer it is, not that anyone expected it to end well. Almost everybody dies. Sullivan kills Frank after finding out Frank was informing on the FBI and fearing he'd rat him out. (If he had to he probably would have, given the tapes he made of their conversations.) Costigan after outing Sullivan is killed by the other mole, Barrigan, who Sullivan was unaware of was working for Frank too; Sullivan kills him to cover his tracks since the department is unaware there is more than one mole, and Dignam kills Sullivan after Costigan has the evidence incriminating Sullivan sent to him.
  • Dragon Their Feet: Reversed and played straight at two different points.
  • The Dragon: Mr. French is Costello's.
  • Enhance Button: Subverted when zooming all the way in on security camera footage does not enable Sullivan to discern any more details about his pursuer, keeping him from identifying Costigan.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: When Costello executes two people on a remote beach by shooting them in the back of the head, he notes that the woman "fell funny". Costello's right-hand man Mr. French gives him a disturbed look and voices to his boss that he might want to talk to someone.
  • Everything's Louder With Bagpipes: At the graduation for the cadets
  • Evil Counterpart: Sullivan to Costigan. At one point, they even wear practically identical clothing.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: A dog shies away from Sulllivan.
  • Evil Phone: Played straight when Costello is on the other end. Subverted with Queenan's phone.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Sullivan ultimately meets his fate with a dejected "Okay..."
  • Flock of Wolves: The only two named members of Costello's crew who aren't undercover cops or confidential informants are Fitzy and Mr. French. And that's including Costello himself.
  • For the Evulz
    Billy Costigan: You're seventy fucking years old. One of these guys is going to pop you. As for running drugs, what the fuck. You don't need the pain in the ass, and they're going to catch you. And you don't need the money.
    Frank Costello: I haven't "needed the money" since I took Archie's milk money in the third grade. Tell you the truth, I don't need pussy any more either... but I like it.
  • Foreign Remake: Of Hong Kong's The Infernal Affairs Trilogy.
  • Foreshadowing: As pointed out by Cracked, almost every death is preceded by an X in frame. Like, window frames, the floor pattern in Sullivan's apartment, a bit of tape in that elevator Sullivan and Costigan ride.....
    • Also, several times earlier in the film there are closeups of people pushing buttons in elevators, and the floor indicators ... foreshadowing the climactic scene in the building under construction where Brown, Costigan and Harrigan all die.
  • Good Cop/Bad Cop: When Costigan is being interviewed about his application by Queenam and Dignam, Queenam plays the good cop while reading Costigan's application and Dignam plays the foul-mouthed bad cop trying to discourage Costigan from signing up.
  • Good Is Not Nice: Costigan and Dignam.
  • Good People Have Good Sex: Costigan is a love machine. Sullivan, meanwhile, seems to have issues with erectile dysfunction. Guess which one is the hero. Averted by Costello, however, who has an active sex life (even at his old age) despite being a far from exemplary individual.
  • Had to Come to Prison to Be a Crook: Invoked when Costigan gets four months in prison to build up a reputation as a crook to be able to infiltrate The Irish Mob.
  • Hahvahd Yahd In My Cah: Naturally Boston accents feature prominently. You even get the real package, since Matt Damon and Mark Walhberg are native Bostonians.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Costigan, Costello and Dignam.
  • Heroic BSOD: Costigan and Sullivan have a simultaneous one when they are on the phone together after Queenan's death. Although Sullivan's is probably more of an Anti-Heroic version.
  • Hired to Hunt Yourself: Sullivan, looking for a mole within the police department. He Hangs A Lampshade on this while talking to Costello about it.
  • Hollywood Silencer: In the final scene.
  • Hope Spot
  • Hypocrite: Frank told Colin as a kid not to let anyone tell him what to do. Frank's an FBI rat.
    • Sullivan and Costigan calling other characters "rat fucks" is pretty hypocritical.
  • I'll Kill You!
  • If You're So Evil, Eat This Kitten
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: Before dying, Delahunt figures out that Costigan is an undercover cop because he is at the place where the other gangsters were congregating to catch the mole, even though Costigan was accidentally given the wrong address. Then Delahunt turns out to be an undercover BPD cop.
  • The Infiltration: Played straight and inverted.
  • Invulnerable Knuckles: Averted. Costigan injures his left hand punching out a goon in a bar fight and has to have it put in a cast. Which comes back to bite him when Costello thinks the cast is a ruse to conceal a wire and inspect it rather roughly.
    • Funnily enough, this is based on a scene in the original film where the cast is fake.
  • The Irish Mob: Costello (partially based on real-life Irish mobster Whitey Bulger) heads it.
  • Jerkass: Sullivan and Costello.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Staff Sgt. Sean Dignam. He is a rude, obnoxious bully who needlessly antagonizes just about everyone he comes in contact with, but is dedicated to the job and fiercely loyal to Queenan. He saw to it that Queenan's death, as well as Costigan's (who he didn't even like) were avenged.
  • Karma Houdini: Subverted. At the end it looks like Sullivan is going to get away scot-free. Then Dignam makes sure that can't happen.
  • Kill 'em All: With extreme prejudice.
  • Kudzu Plot: They stretch this out into a two-and-a-half hour movie. Hell, it takes 20 minutes just to get to the title card!
  • Large Ham: Jack Nicholson
  • Male Frontal Nudity: Costello whips it out in a movie theater at one point during a covert meeting with Sullivan.
  • Mexican Standoff
  • "Mister Sandman" Sequence
  • The Mole: Sullivan is a mole planted by Costello to be his informer within the police, while Costigan works the other way as a mole planted by the cops to be an informer within Costello's crew.
  • Number Two: Dignam for Queenan.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Early on in the film Costigan pretends to be significantly less intelligent than he is, in hopes that Costello won't consider the possibility that he's the mole.
  • Obstructive Vigilantism: Dignam keeps mum about what he knows, and in the end he just shoots Sullivan.
  • Oddly Small Organization: The Boston mob, or what we see of them, is composed of five members, twenty to forty percent of whom are undercover cops.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping:
    • Martin Sheen, God bless him, and the therapist.
    • For Leonardo DiCaprio, it is explained within the story that Costigan faked his accent based on the social situation.
    • On a point of interest, Mark Wahlberg and Matt Damon are immune to this because they're native Bostonians. Wahlberg specifically is even of a working class background, and Dignam's behavior is based on that of the cops who arrested Marky Mark many times as a teenager... making this Truth in Television.
  • Opening Monologue: Costello gives one.
  • Overt Rendezvous: Whenever Queenan and Dignam need to chat with Costigan, they meet him in some park/riverbank area. This worries Costigan, because he knows if anyone sees him with them, he's pretty much got a crosshair on his forehead.
    • Costello points out how stupid it is for Sullivan to meet with him in a porno theater. This turns out to be prophetic, as Costigan almost catches Sullivan when he leaves.
  • The Password Is Always Swordfish: In this case, a Justified Trope.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Costello mentions a distaste for "niggers" in his opening monologue. While it is shown to have historical significance this racism fails to show up in any significant way within the plot - it is only used to establish, mere seconds into the movie, that this guy is not a good man.
    • He's also pretty equal-opportunity non-PC. He throws around "guinea" (a very derogatory term for Italians) all the time and calls his Chinese contacts "Chinamen" and "chinks".
  • Pretty Little Head Shots: Averted as most people in this movie die from getting shot in the head, and it's never pretty. It's also defied in the opening montage at the academy, as the instructor details for his cadets the effects that their hollow point ammunition would have on a human skull.
  • Prison Rape: Amusingly subverted. Madolyn asks Costigan about his time in prison, leading to this exchange:
    Billy: Oh, what, you wanna hear about the showers, is that it?
    Madolyn: Why, did something happen to you?
    Billy: (Beat) ... No.
  • Prolonged Prologue: The credits don't appear until nearly 20 minutes after the start of the movie, by which time you've already seen a flashback scene, a Training Montage, and the first plot twist.
  • Properly Paranoid: Costello and Queenan are both correct in their assumptions that there's a mole in their repective teams. More than one, in both cases.
  • Reality Ensues: At the end it looks like Sullivan is going to get away scot-free. Then Dignam unceremoniously shoots him dead.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Captain Queenan (who also has some overlap with Team Dad).
    • Ellerby as well, despite his somewhat eccentric personality.
  • Redemption Quest: In Costigan's introductory scene, Queenan and Dignam press him as to why he's trying to be a police officer and go over the numerous members of his family who were involved in organized crime. Costigan suggests that he is trying to improve his family name and disassociate himself from the disreputable backgrounds of people like his late father, his late uncle, or his cousins.
  • Revised Ending
  • Rooftop Confrontation: Costigan and Sullivan have one after they have figured each other out.
  • Sanity Slippage:
    • Costello becomes more unhinged as the story progresses. Which is disturbing to see, since he's not terribly sane to start with.
    • Costigan struggles with this from time to time.
  • Self Offense
  • Sexual Karma: Sullivan's erectile dysfunction.
  • Shout-Out: The scene in the graveyard has significant visual parallels with a scene in The Third Man.
  • Shout-Out to Shakespeare: "Readiness is all." Lampshaded by Dignam.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: Staff Sergeant Dignam.
  • Smug Snake: Sullivan grows increasingly more loathsome throughout the film, climaxing in his confrontation with Costigan on the roof and subsequent elevator ride. Weeping, he begs a clearly disgusted Costigan to shoot him to give him an easy way out. Costigan refuses.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Madolyn.
  • Southies
  • Spy Speak: When someone is communicating with Costello via phone, they always address him as "Mom" or "Dad" to make it seem like they're communicating with their parents. One example is when Fitzy is detained for a traffic violation. Sullivan poses as the lawyer and tells him to call his mom and tell her he won't be home for supper. Fitzy goes along and makes the call, which goes to a house where Mr. French and Costigan are handling some drugs. He says the line, which tells them to clear out the apartment, then set the place on fire.
  • Strange Minds Think Alike:
    • The cranberry juice scene.
    • The echo of the "When you're facing a loaded gun, what's the difference?" This is what Costello says in his opening monologue, then Costigan to him in a bar later on.
    • "School's out."
  • Surprisingly Sudden Death: Billy Costigan gets killed instantly with no warning.
  • Team Dad: Queenan, especially to Dignam and Costigan.
    • When Costigan had enough of Dignam's abuse and they started brawling on the street, Queenan breaking them up was like a father dealing with his two misbehaving kids.
  • Television Geography:
    • Boston's Government Center is portrayed as the Massachusetts State Police headquarters. In actuality, the MSP general headquarters is in Framingham.
    • Likewise, the Massachusetts state police academy is in East Braintree, a small town outside Worcester, not Boston.
    • An undercover investigation into the Boston mob would probably be conducted by the Boston Police Department, not a state police force. However, there is a city cop undercover among Costello's crew, and its doubtful he limits his criminal activities to the city itself.
    • When arrested by Costigan, Sullivan tells him "good luck explaining this to a Suffolk County jury!" Suffolk County has no government or courts of its own, as they have been incorporated into the city of Boston.
  • There Are No Therapists: Averted Trope: Billy Costigan must see a therapist as part of his "parole" and to maintain his cover.
  • Title Drop: Thrice in English, once in Cantonese.
  • Torture Always Works: In this case, it would be ultimately less painful to maintain the lie.
  • Troubled, but Cute: Costigan, to Madolyn.
  • The Unreveal: What Costello got Sullivan after he graduated from the Police Academy. The screenplay actually goes out of its way to say we'll never know what it is.
  • Uncomfortable Elevator Moment: Costigan and Sullivan after they know the truth about each other.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: So how does Sullivan thank the guy who saved him from his captor? By shooting his rescuer in the face, of course.
  • Unintentional Period Piece: When Costigan is on the walkway at the airport and talking to Dignam on the phone, one shot shows what are clearly Northwest Airlines and United Airlines aircraft in the background. This narrows down the time period because the United planes are painted dark gray, when today they are painted white, while the Northwest plane bears a paint scheme that lasted from 2004 until the airline merged with Delta in 2010.
  • Unperson: With no one from the undercover unit left to vouch for Costigan, Sullivan deletes his service records.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story:
    • While the film is a remake of Infernal Affairs, Costello was also partially based on real life Irish Mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger who was also working for (and protected by) the FBI. He eventually became one of the FBI's Ten Most Wanted and was finally arrested in June 2011. Strangely enough, Bulger was rumored to have seen the movie when it came out, and apparently liked it.
    • Colin Sullivan is also based loosely on John Connolly, who Bulger used to treat to ice cream as a kid, and grew up to become the FBI agent who regularly tipped Bulger off that that the police were on to him in return for info that brought in lesser criminals who often coincidentally happened to be Bulger's rivals.
  • Vigilante Execution: Sorta. Sullivan manages to kill the only people who've discovered that he's Costello's mole and appears set to get away with it without even being charged with a crime, much less convicted, but Sgt. Dignam has other ideas.
  • Villain Protagonist: Both Costello and Sullivan are main characters.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Frank Costello, and later on, Colin Sullivan at the end.
  • Villainous BSOD: Played with when Sullivan discovers that Costello is an informant he leads the police to the gang's location and ultimately kills Costello himself, actions that are undoubtedly "moral", yet he only does these things to close the door on his criminal life and to save his own skin.
  • Whole Plot Reference: To Gangs of New York - Leonardo DiCaprio plays an Irish guy with a Mob family history who infiltrates a gang in an east coast metropolis in order to gain the trust of the bigoted, extremely hammy mob boss - a lot of Irishisms, dirty cops and a love triangle ensue. Both are directed by Martin Scorsese.
  • Wicked Cultured: Costello is a fan of opera.
  • Your Mom: Averted, Dignam sees this line coming and prevents it from being used on him.
    Ellerby: Go fuck yourself.
    Dignam: I'm tired from fucking your wife.
    Ellerby: How's your mother?
    Dignam: Good, she's tired from fucking my father.


The AviatorCreator/Martin ScorseseShutter Island
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MunichAcademy AwardBabel
Defending Your LifeCreator/Warner Bros.Dirty Harry

alternative title(s): The Departed
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