October 12, 2006

While I'm reviewing things...

I did something over the weekend that I rarely do these days: went to the movies. I saw The Departed, the new Scorcese movie with Jack and Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio and Marky Mark (regrettably, still sans Funky Bunch) and a host of others. I really liked it, although there were a couple of things I could have done without.

First of all, pretty much all of the performances are great. Leo managed to go an entire movie without irritating the hell out of me, and that in itself is an achievement. But beyond that, he's really good. Ditto for Jack, but it's kind of jarring listening to Nicholson trying to inhabit a Boston accent. I kind of wish he wouldn't; I don't really think Jack is (or needs to be) acting anymore, he just has to find cool lines to say and go be Jack doing it (he gets a pass for this, unlike Costner, who is just incapable of anything else, including making movies that are under like 7 hours long). Matt Damon is managing to put together an awfully long streak of movies that I can't dislike (as opposed to Affleck, for example), and this is another good choice for him. I don't think that Matt is an overtly good actor, in the sense that he doesn't ever really wow you, but he just manages to put very believable characters on screen. Martin Sheen and Alec Baldwin both pop in with good roles as well. Oh, and the girl - Vera Farmiga - is excellent (I say 'the girl' because there's really only one of any significance in the movie). Good job of casting and acting pretty much all around.

I liked the writing a lot, mostly because while being very dark, there is a whole lot of humor in it. This is a film that makes the most out of down time, with a lot of the the sort of back-and-forth banter and ribbing that you'd expect to find between the characters. I think a lot of serious films try to stay serious, to their detriment, but this one works plenty of comedy in to break up the rhythms a bit. Plus it's almost all sarcasm and snark, so that appeals to me immediately. I would be curious to see how people from different parts of the country react to some of the writing. I just think that the sense of humor that comes out of the Northeast is markedly different from most anywhere else: it has an edge to it that I don't find down here, for example, and I kind of miss a lot of the time. But in any case, this is a surprisingly funny movie, intermixed with a lot of violence and drama.

I won't get too much into the plot, since you get all you need to know about it from the commercial (and then some, but more on that in a second). Moves fast, has plenty of twists, the kinds of things you expect from a director like Scorcese. It gives you about 20 minutes to settle in and then off you go. And go. And go some more. Right up to the end, which is really the only major flaw in the film.

I'm all for plot twists, but I think there should be a limit to the number of them you can cram into a 2-minute stretch of film; there is one scene that violates that limit, whatever it would be. It's unfortunate when, after having an audience pretty well wrapped up in the story, to get laughter and strains of "Oh, come on!" in one of the more important points in the story. I understand the why, but I just would have preferred it to be handled differently. It in no way ruins the movie, it's just an unfortunate speed bump in an otherwise great ride. The only other thing that bothered me was that the commercial for the film, like so many these days, gives you a shot out of the last 2 minutes of the movie. I'm not going to tell you which one, but it had me looking for it for about half the picture, and I eventually figured out that it would be one of the closing shots. That's not the movie's fault, I know, but it irritated me all the same; it's becoming all to common with studios these days, and I'm really, really tired of it. What makes it worse for this one is that this is one of those movies where you really can't tell how it's going to play out from watching the commercial, and that's rare enough that they shouldn't mess with it.

All in all, I recommend it. Whatever flaws it has are vastly outweighed by the things it does well. Of course, if you're not sure about taking my word for it, here's a review if you'd rather hear what a pro thinks.


Reel Fanatic said...

I'd much rather read the perspective of an actual fan than a "pro" any day ... Like you, I was surprised that Leo made it through an entire without managing to make me want to choke him, and I thought he in fact outacted all the big names in this fantastic flick

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