Film fanatics and friends Fred Sullivan and Yasser Akram are on a mission to watch 25 of one another’s favourite movies. Each week they will watch one movie each and then get together to discuss what they have seen. With just three films left on each list, no-one wants a bad score for one of their absolute favourites. Thank goodness there is no more Orlando Bloom or Ingmar Berman.
Yasser’s number three is a Best Picture winner and the film that won an over due Oscar for it’s celebrated director. Double crossing and betrayal are the name of the game, but what did Fred make of this crime thriller?
You can read the entries from previous week by checking out the archives on the left of the screen.
To have a look at what Fred has picked so far, click here.
Likewise, for Yasser’s choices, click here.
Fred: Your next choice, Yasser, is the movie that famously won Martin Scorsese an overdue Best Director Oscar – ‘The Departed‘. It’s at number three on your list so perhaps you could begin by explaining why it ranks so high
Yasser: We finally get a Scorsese film. I absolutely love some of his earlier films, as you know
FS: I am also a big fan, of the man as much as his work
YA: There was a period after ‘Casino‘ that a lot of people started writing him off, but he found some form again when he started working with Leonardo Di Caprio. ‘The Aviator‘ and ‘Gangs of New York‘ are okay, but I find that, not only does Scorsese get back to what he does best, but when he made ‘The Departed’, he directed one of the cleverest movies I’ve ever seen and he made it look easy
YA: As you mentioned, Scorsese finally won an Oscar for this having been overlooked so many times before. Was it deserved?
FS: That’s a difficult question. There is no escaping that it felt like a lifetime achievement award. However, if a first-time director or someone who had won before won for this I don’t think anyone could say it was undeserved. It’s a terrific film, terrifically directed
YA: I was hoping you’d say that
FS: I’d go as far as to say that ‘The Departed’ is the best live-action movie I’ve seen in the last ten years
YA: Wasn’t expecting that sort of acclaim! The question now is what is it you like so much about it?
FS: Let’s start with the story. I’ve said a few times previously that a good film doesn’t treat the audience as idiots. If the story requires it, a writer and director shouldn’t be afraid to treat them as adults and have an intricate, layered narrative. ‘The Departed’ certainly has one of those. There are several twists, but they are all rigorously tight and make sense in the direction the film goes
YA: I wholeheartedly agree with that. The film was a remake of ‘Infernal Affairs‘, a Hong Kong-based movie. Did you know that before you watched it?
FS: Yes, but I haven’t seen it
YA: It’s a good, good film
FS: Why is ‘The Departed’ better?
YA: I wouldn’t say I’m an avid lover of Chinese cinema, but what I’ve delved into, I’ve liked. Andy Lau is brilliant as Matt Damon‘s equivalent, but there was something ‘Infernal Affairs’ didn’t have – Jack fucking Nicholson
FS: He’s your favourite, then?
YA: I love Di Caprio in this, and there are more emotional performances, but when all’s said and done Jack is the man. He is the truth
FS: Is this like Brando in ‘The Godfather‘? Great because of who it is rather than how good the performance actually is
YA: No. This is better than Brando as Corleone
FS: Praise indeed. I mean, I love Jack, but he’s one of those actors who is the same in most of his roles. He’s in that difficult area between ‘actor’ and ‘movie personality’. However, when he’s on-screen you aren’t watching anyone else. He turns what is a supporting role into a lead
YA: Yes. When he’s on-screen he is like the devil personified in the way that you want him to put his arm around your shoulder and lead you down a road of delightful evils. That’s why he’s awesome at playing the villain
FS: He said he did this film after a few years of doing comedies. It was some return! He’s mesmerising
YA: Is he your favourite in the movie too?
FS: I don’t think he’s the best person in it, but of the four leads he gives the most memorable performance. It’s a case of the master showing the upstarts how it’s done. Even Di Caprio, who I like, struggles to keep up
FS: He’s a good actor, but his best work is done before the camera turns because he chooses his roles carefully
YA: Agreed. I quite liked him in his younger performances, but he’s gotten better with age. I think he’s terrific in this
FS: He is. His character has a lot to deal with and you can sense that he’s a bit tortured. The stress of his situation is always threatening to boil over. It’s like he’s permanently thinking ‘what the fuck have I got myself into?‘
YA: There’s many different levels to his portrayal of Billy Costigan (Di Caprio). I love how he plays dumb opposite Frank (Nicholson), but when he’s around the other members of the crew he doesn’t play dumb. His character has more elaborate themes to deal with and that makes him stand out from Damon, Ray Winstone, Martin Sheen and Alec Baldwin
YA: Who is, then?
FS: Martin Sheen. He’s excellent. He plays the one character you genuinely care for
YA: YES! He is epic. He has that empathic nature. He’s fantastic
FS: The role isn’t the biggest, but he wrings everything he can out of it. I think he’s the best actor in the film
YA: Do you like Damon? I normally just put up with him. i like his films but he’s a bit… ‘meh’
FS: Damon and Mark Wahlberg are two actors I don’t really rate. Damon is bland. He raises his game in this, but he’s still the weak spot. He has this one expression – a sort of half-smile – that he uses for happiness, confusion, dead dog on the windshield…
FS: I find his stardom bewildering. He’s just nothing
YA: What about Wahlberg? Same story?
FS: He surprised me. He actually showed that is you give him more to do than look tough or drive a car fast he can be good. I’d like to say a quick word about Alec Baldwin before we move on…
YA: He was on-point!
FS: … I think he shows he is a bit of a loss to cinema. With better choices earlier in his career I think he’d have been a massive star
YA: You know why I love this film? The way it twists and turns and intertwines
FS: It’s very tense. Scorsese did brilliantly to ratchet that up. It also kept you guessing right up until the final minute. There are no loose ends either, which must have been difficult
YA: What about the sub-plot involving Costigan, Sullivan (Damon) and Madolyn (Vera Farmiga)?
YA: I guess they needed a woman in the movie
YA: Politics. Trying to cater for a wider audience? It’s Hollywood, man. This shit happens
FS: Three words – Lawrence. Of. Arabia. Not a single woman in the whole movie has a line
YA: I don’t like it, but I understand it
FS: It’s the biggest flaw of the movie. Chase the audience and you lose integrity. The audience doesn’t matter. If we listen to the collective we will end up eating processed cheese and buying James Arthur’s record
YA: Let’s talk a bit more about Martin Scorsese. He’s one of the finest in the business and most of what he touches is magic
FS: He’s be up there with the greats for me. He’s my favourite director working today by some distance
YA: Do you think this is his best picture?
YA: This is more enthralling. It’s tense and never lets you settle. There’s lots of subtle imagery
FS: I find Scorsese’s movies so atmospheric and so real. I feel like there is stuff going on off-screen – that life goes on when the scene is finished and the camera has stopped rolling. You don’t get that with most directors
YA: He also has a way of getting actors to work for him. The kinds of performances he gets out of people, like Di Caprio, is immense
YA: I knew Di Caprio had talent before watching this, but the way he throws himself into playing Costigan… he delivers arguably one of his finest performances
FS: I’d struggle to think of a better one. ‘The Aviator’ maybe, or ‘Romeo + Juliet‘
FS: This is your third-favourite film of all time, but I don’t feel you’ve raved about it as much as some of your others. In hindsight, should this have been lower?
YA: Perhaps, but the quality of the film is absolutely brilliant. The intricacies of the story, and it’s pace, are amazing
FS: No arguments here!
YA: Everyone performs. Di Caprio gives possibly his best performance. Nicholson is back to his best sort of role. Damon, Wahlberg and Baldwin all work well. All of the actors owe a debt of gratitude to Scorsese. The film is like a snake’s trail. It’s messy, it weaves in and out, but when you stand back and look at the pattern the snake left, it’s beautiful
FS: Very poetic
YA: I like the themes too. It’s all about loyalty and betrayal, good and evil, cops and robbers
FS: I’d say it’s mainly betrayal. There is no loyalty to be seen, except for between Di Caprio and Sheen
YA: Sum up, bro!
FS: This is going to be difficult. You have picked a movie directed by one of my favourite directors, starring one of my all-time favourite movie stars, and the current Hollywood leading actor I rate as the best. It’s the best live-action movie I’ve seen in a decade – a film I went to the cinema to see and I was absolutely captivated by. It’s got possibly the best story on your list, and a fine script, ably acted by a group of actors who are either safe hands or playing above their usual capabilities. Every actor is pushing the others to the top of their game.
YA: Good, good…
FS: It’s not without faults. It’s very long, and on second viewing I felt the whole sub-plot with Vera Farmiga could have been cut. Also, whilst he’s doing his best, Damon is notably weaker than the rest of the cast. You know it’s bad when you’ve been out-acted by Marky Mark
FS: However, the direction, by one of my favourite people on earth – a man as dedicated to preserving cinema as he is to creating it – Martin Scorsese. He is such a fine director that I cannot fault the look or feel of the movie. If I’d done this from memory from when I watched it at the cinema, this would have got 10/10, but given the few flaws I have to bring it down to 9/10
YA: I’m glad it scored so high. I was not expecting that
FS: People think I’m dead against remakes, but what I don’t like is remakes for remakes sake, and the general lack of originality in the box-office top tens every year. I mean, we looked and found that 1970 was the last year that had no remakes, sequels or TV spin-offs in the annual top ten
Next time: A seasonal treat for Yasser – ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’