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Dearly ‘Departed’ Brought to Life on DVD

Brian Doxtader | Thursday, February 15, 2007

Editor’s Note: This is the fourth in a five-part series on the 2007 Oscar nominees for Best Picture.

“The Departed” is Scorsese’s best work in over a decade and an instant classic in the vein of his other major pieces – “Mean Streets,” “Taxi Driver,” “Raging Bull” and “Goodfellas.” In fact, in rhythmic energy and propulsive pacing, it is only matched by “Goodfellas,” though it doesn’t have the searing sense of purpose of “Raging Bull” or “Taxi Driver.” Where “Gangs of New York” and “The Aviator” occasionally felt overwrought and difficult, “The Departed” is fast-paced and entertaining.

The plot follows two moles – undercover cop Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio), who has infiltrated the ranks of Irish mob boss Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson), and Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon), who has infiltrated the police. Borrowing heavily from “Infernal Affairs,” the Hong Kong film from which it is adapted, “The Departed” has all of Scorsese’s familiar trademarks – freeze-frames, propulsive editing, a profane and funny script and phenomenal acting. A fantastic soundtrack – which in this case overflows with tracks by The Rolling Stones, The Allman Brothers, Badfinger and Dropkick Murphys – is another hallmark of a great Scorsese film, and really propels “The Departed” through a surprisingly brief 151 minutes.

Everything about “The Departed,” from the acting to the scripting to the kinetic editing (by two-time Academy Award winner Thelma Schoonmaker), demonstrates that it is a truly great film, which is why it deserves a great DVD release, and Warner mostly delivers.

This is where things start getting a little confusing. If it seems like there are several different versions of “The Departed” on DVD, it’s because there are. There’s a standard single-disc edition, which only has the theatrical trailer as a bonus. Then there’s a two-disc special edition with several features – but wait! Best Buy has a “steelbook” edition, which comes in gorgeous metallic packaging, though the actual content on the discs is the same. Target has its own exclusive edition, which includes a slipcase cover and a small paperback of the script. It really comes down to personal preference, although the Best Buy steelbook really looks fantastic, with a much better cover than any of the other editions.

Picture and sound quality are the same on all versions. The picture looks crisp and the 5.1 audio is passable (though with less surround than might be expected), though nothing really matches seeing a film with as much visual and aural panache as “The Departed” on the big screen.

The most disappointing omission is a commentary by Scorsese. Warner seems to be moving away from these, which is really unfortunate, because Scorsese’s previous commentaries (on Warner releases like “Goodfellas”) have been really enlightening.

Other special features include additional scenes with introductions by Martin Scorsese, a feature-length TCM profile “Scorsese on Scorsese” (which is actually quite good) and a pair of standard featurettes. The movie itself is the main draw, however, and much of the material covered on this release has been explored elsewhere (like some of Warners’ other releases).

It’s possible, even likely, that “The Departed” will get another release down the road. With several Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director, it’s very possible that Warner will see fit to do a super-ultra-deluxe-special edition. But the versions currently out are quite decent, and have enough special features for most casual fans. The only thing that could really draw people to double-dip is if Scorsese records a commentary, though it’s hard to imagine that Warner would add one on a future release. And besides, why wait to get your hands on the best film of the year when it’s available right now?