In this section of our Colossus Movie Guide for The Departed, we look at the key shots that help us understand the film.
- Leonardo DiCaprio – Trooper William “Billy” Costigan Jr.
- Matt Damon – Staff Sergeant Colin Sullivan
- Jack Nicholson – Frank Costello
- Mark Wahlberg – Staff Sergeant Sean Dignam
- Martin Sheen – Captain Oliver “Charlie” Queenan
- Ray Winstone – Arnold “Frenchie” French
- Vera Farmiga – Dr. Madolyn Madden
- Alec Baldwin – Captain George Ellerby
- Anthony Anderson – Trooper Brown
- Kevin Corrigan as Sean Costigan
- James Badge Dale as Trooper Barrigan
- David O’Hara as Patrick “Fitzy” Fitzgibbons
- Mark Rolston as Timothy Delahunt
- Robert Wahlberg as FBI Special Agent Frank Lazio
- Amenda Lynch as Carmen
- Kristen Dalton as Gwen
- Shay Duffin as Phil
- William Monohan – Writer
- Martin Scorsese – Director
Key shots of The Departed
The opening shots of The Departed depict a world in a state of unrest. It creates an environment where you must watch out for yourself if you want to thrive.
Thus, Costello’s opening quote speaks volumes about The Departed‘s deeper reflections:
I don’t want to be a product of my environment. I want my environment to be a product of me. Years ago we had the church. That was only a way of saying we had each other. The Knights of Columbus were real head-breakers, true guineas. They took over their piece of the city. Twenty years after an Irishman couldn’t get a f*cking job, we had the presidency. May he rest in peace. That’s what the n*ggers don’t realize. If I got one thing against the black chappies, it’s this: no one gives it to you. You have to take it.
Costello Costello aims to impart this wisdom upon a young Sullivan, which colors Sullivan’s persona for the rest of the film. We are following somebody who believes that you must lie and cheat and steal in order to get ahead of a world that also lies and cheats and steals. This energy colors how we judge each character’s sense of morality and search for identity and fulfillment. It’s also an ironic statement, as Costello is an FBI informant who’s secretly looking after himself the entire time.
Costello grooms Sullivan
The initial dialogue between Costello and Sullivan is crucial, as it sets the stage for the narrative and themes that will follow. Costello’s dialogue plays over several moments of Sullivan’s young life, including his confirmation at a local church. This is significant as it sets the precedent for Sullivan’s life, highlighting the influence that Costello has on him from a young age and his initiation into a life of duplicity. It also underscores the theme of corruption and how it seeps into even the most innocent stages of life, shaping Sullivan into the mole he becomes.
Another pivotal shot is the initial meeting between Costigan, Queenan, and Dignam. In this shot, Costigan is being briefed about his undercover mission, which will require him to infiltrate Costello’s gang. This shot signifies the beginning of Costigan’s double life, illustrating the personal sacrifice he is about to make for the greater good. It also sets the stage for the duality and tension that will be a recurring theme throughout the film.
The first “X” Marking
As discussed in the motifs section, “X” markings are a visual motif that appears throughout The Departed. Each appearance of these “X” markings is an important shot as they symbolize impending doom. One notable instance is when Costigan is on an elevator, with “X” markings visible on the doors just before his unexpected death. These shots serve as subtle foreshadows, heightening the sense of danger and unpredictability in the narrative.
Above is the very first “X” we see in the movie. In the following scene, Costello meets a young Sullivan. This is the film’s symbolic way of conveying that Costello effectively takes Sullivan’s life by corrupting him at such a young age. This path will ultimately lead Sullivan to his death at the end of the movie when Dignam shoots him for his lies and betrayals.
The rooftop confrontation
The rooftop confrontation between Costigan and Sullivan is one of the most significant shots in The Departed. It is the climax of their parallel stories, where the two moles come face-to-face, each fully aware of the other’s double identity. This shot carries immense weight as it represents the culmination of their respective struggles with identity and deception. It also underlines the theme of duality, with their mirrored experiences converging in a dramatic confrontation.
The rat and the State House
The final shot of The Departed features a rat scurrying across a balcony rail with the Massachusetts State House in the background. This shot is rich with symbolic meaning, providing a succinct visual summation of the film’s central themes. The rat symbolizes deceit and corruption, while the State House represents the institutions of power that are infiltrated by such corruption. This shot serves as a poignant commentary on the pervasive nature of corruption, reinforcing the notion that deceit has permeated every level of society, from the criminal underworld to the halls of power.
What are your thoughts?
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