Damon and DiCaprio interviewed by student

Emily Tribwasser

As Jack Nicholson’s character Frank Costello narrates, “You are either a cop or a criminal … but, when you’re staring down the barrel of a gun, what’s the difference?” This quotation alone outlines the plot of director Martin Scorsese’s brilliant new film of deception, mistaken identity and backstabbing – “The Departed.” Leaving the theater, the consensus of the general audience seems to be, “They just don’t make movies like that anymore.”

Set in Boston, “The Departed” centers around Frank Costello (played by the phenomenal Jack Nicholson), the leader of the Irish mob of L Street and the two young men to whom he plays a father figure (Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio).

Colin Sullivan (Damon) has grown up under Frank’s wing. Since childhood, Frank has been looking out for his well being and has used his fatherly influences to convince Colin to become a cop. Consequently, Colin works his way up the ranks from cadet to detective – a rank that benefits Frank quite nicely.

He uses Colin as an inside source at the bureau to learn in advance what moves the cops were going to make. Colin also uses his power to divert the attention of the state police away from Frank and his gang and onto other social issues.

Billy Corrigan (played by DiCaprio in his third collaboration with Scorsese), on the other hand, is unable to climb the ranks as easily as Colin. In order to become a cop at all, he is forced to fulfill a special project. He is assigned by the fatherly Queenan (Martin Sheen) and the blunt, say-anything Dignam (Mark Wahlberg in one of his best and most comical performances) to go undercover for the state police as a member of Frank’s gang. These two men are the only ones who know Billy’s true identity as they put him in prison for a believable amount of time to sharpen up his “bad boy” image, which will ultimately cause Frank to welcome him into his gang.

The tension mounts as Frank begins to suspect he has an informant in his gang, and, likewise, the state police begin to suspect they have a mob informant in their ranks. Colin and Billy are both aware that there are indeed rats in each establishment, but they do not know each other’s identities in a brilliant example of dramatic irony.

I recently got the chance to discuss the film with DiCaprio and Damon. On the subject of their characters’ identity crises, the men had similar opinions.

“Certainly for me in this movie, playing this police cadet from Boston that goes to try to expose this mob syndicate headed by Jack Nicholson, the challenge for me was exactly that,” DiCaprio says. “It was not having to reveal myself to these people that are around me that constantly want to shoot me in the head, but also trying to emote that tension to the audience and get them involved in that experience. And how do you that? That was the most challenging thing for me in this particular role.

“But we read the script and we say, ‘Wow, there’s a lot to play there as an actor. There’s a lot I can do. It certainly won’t be a one-note experience.'”

The amount of deception in this film is one of the elements that makes the plot so thrilling.

“You’re dealing with all of these characters who are not telling each other who they really are,” Damon says. “And who are dealing with certain levels of deception.”

Scorsese, known for his thrillers (“Goodfellas,” in particular), superbly fills the two-and-a-half hour duration with deceit, betrayal, secret identities and plenty of bloodshed. There are moments when he catches the audience completely off guard, to the point where there are several people sitting at the edge of their seats with their mouths hanging wide open.

Jack Nicholson’s performance is one of his best in years, and it is apparent that he truly enjoyed the role and made his character his own (namely in a certain scene in an adult movie theater)

Scorsese has been nominated for the Academy Award for best director five times, but has yet to win. Due to the brilliant, original and refreshing police thriller that he has created in “The Departed,” I believe it is finally time for his Oscar.

“The Departed” is a must-see: a film that will cause you to appreciate the concept of a thriller that maintains reality and brilliant characterization. With an all-star cast, an edge-of-your-seat script and exceptional direction, the general consensus is right-on: they don’t make movies like this anymore.