The Departed - Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson) is an Irish mob boss working out of Boston. As a child, Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) began working for Costello. As time went by, Costello masterminded a plan to have Sullivan become a police officer so that the mob would have an inside man. Simultaneously, William Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) finished his training to become a state police officer. Sullivan, being the goody two-shoes that he (at least on the surface) is, worked his way quickly through the ranks of the Boston State Police Department to become a member of a special unit under the command of Captain Ellerby (Alec Baldwin). Costigan on the other hand is singled out by Oliver Queenan (Martin Sheen) and Sergeant Dignam (Mark Wahlberg), based on his troubled background, to go undercover in Costello's operation. Before long, Sullivan finds himself looking for the rat in the mob, and Costigan finds himself looking for the rat in the police department. All the while, no one can be trusted. The Departed was recommended to me by...well...everyone on the fucking planet, it seems like. I really had no interest in the movie to begin with, but I'll watch anything, and I had no reason to believe that it was a bad film. As it turns out, it is quite the opposite. A lot of people had the opinion that it had to be good no matter what because Martin Scorcese was behind it. Having only previously seen his films Bringing Out the Dead and Gangs of New York, I can't say that I had any real interest in his movies as a rule, but after seeing The Departed, it's very obvious that it was handled by a visually skilled individual. Perhaps more noteworthy than the directing, though, was the writing. We've all seen mob movies with cops working on the inside and vice-a-versa before, but William Monaghan gave the characters a very distinct realism that isn't always accomplished in films, especially those of this subject matter. I feel that I can tell fairly easily when watching a movie whether the creators actually gave a damn about providing movie-goers with a unique viewing experience, and The Departed certainly falls into this category. There was nothing about it that truly felt like it had been done before outside of the basic concept of having a mole the operation. Each actor did a spectacular job of personifying their particular role in a believable way, which must have been difficult considering some of the Boston accents they had to pull off. After several years of what I would call unimpressive roles, Jack Nicholson renews his status completely with the Departed, and Leonardo DiCaprio delivered a surprisingly good performance as well. The soundtrack was exceptional, employing well known songs that felt as though they belonged in the scenes in which they were used instead of just sprinkled about to sell CDs. Something that I found particularly interesting in The Departed was the major use of cell phones in the story. I've seen plenty of gangster movies before, but the use of cell phones essentially forming the backbone of the entire film felt like a really original addition to the genre. Also, the movie gave an odd feeling that it was an old school gangster film while still obviously being set in modern day. Something that I found interesting about The Departed was that the title scene didn't occur until almost nineteen minutes into the movie. When it happened, I'd completely forgotten that there hadn't been one yet. Of course, the movie is two an a half hours long, so it doesn't really occur as late as it sounds. By the time the movie is drawing to a close, there are so many twists and turns that you could conceivably succumb to motion sickness, and I doubt that anyone could see the ending coming. Do yourself a favor and watch The Departed as soon as you get the chance. It is definitely one of the best films of last year. However, just to piss people off, I still preferred Slither.
Dark Water - After divorcing her husband (Dougray Scott), Dahlia (Jennifer Connelly) moves to a new apartment with her daughter Ceci (Ariel Gade). The apartment is small and a bit run down, but it's all that Dhalia can afford, and she essentially just wants to prove to her ex-husband that she can support their daughter on her own. However, after moving in, Dhalia realizes that the apartment is even less desirable than she thought. There are constantly sounds coming from the apartment upstairs, the ceiling has a horrible leak, and the staff (essentially comprised of a single handyman played by Pete Postelthwaite) is...well...understaffed. Things really go downhill, though, when Dhalia begins seeing things and her daughter starts to act very strange. You know, I'm not really sure why I wanted to see Dark Water. I didn't like the manga upon which it is based, I had no real interest in the filmmakers, and frankly, I'm sick of these type of repetitive horror films. Maybe I just had hopes of Jennifer Connelly getting soaked. Whatever the reason, I'm glad that I saw Dark Water. I didn't find the plot particularly entertaining, but the cast was outstanding. Connelly pulled off the role of a desperate mother very well, but the supporting cast is really where the best performances of the film are located. Pete Postelthwaite was great in the role of the janitor. Of course, Postelthwaite is one of those actors who I don't think can deliver a bad performance. I've loved him in every movie I've seen him in from Romeo & Juliet and Alien 3 to James and the Giant Peach and...well...maybe not AEon Flux. Tim Roth throws down a great performance as well, as Dhalia's divorce lawyer Jeff Platzer. The real diamond in the rough, though, is John C. Reilly, who plays the landlord of Dhalia's new building. Reilly has an uncanny ability to be normal. It's almost like he isn't even acting. He's easily one of the mot believable character actors that I've ever seen. So when you really get right down to it, before seeing Dark Water you have to ask yourself if you're willing to sit through an admittedly slow, unrewarding film to catch a glimpse of some truly great performances. I can say that I'm glad that I saw the film, but I leave your own fate up to you on this matter.