I've spent part of today driving in my car perfecting my New England accent after living in south Boston for two hours last night in Martin Scorsese's 2006 film The Departed. The rounded drawl of the 'mick cops' in this film seems to softly melt into your subconscious, so all day I've felt the need to swear profusely in this lilting accent where syllables just dribble into each other.
This film poses an interesting question summed up by Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson) at the beginning of the film 'when you're starting down the barrel of a loaded gun, what's the difference?' meaning, how fine is that line between cop/ robber, murder/ protector. It's all a matter of perspective. This theme is revisited throughout the film in different ways. Interestingly, it's offensive when Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) casually hurls homophobic insults at the Fire Department rugby team after loosing in a match, but it's equally so when Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) does and we're supposed to sympathise with him. Billy's first meeting with Captain Queenan (Martin Sheen) and Dignam (Mark Wallberg) is littered with extremely offensive, but I hate to admit it, very funny one liners. Well, it is a Scorsese film so you'd naturally expect a colourful arrange of dialogue, but I think the point here is to show that these men are no different. Criminals are cops and vice versa, so really who's the 'good' guy in the traditional sense.
Billy wonders this while deep undercover with Francis, he notes that he's not murdered anyone, but everyone else he knows has and he even mocks his psychiatrist Madolyn (Vera Farmiga) for believing any cop could legitimately cry for using his weapon on a felon. With the brutal ending (SPOILER) where almost everyone is killed off, it is only Billy who ends the film literally without blood on his hands. There's other comparison's between the crims and the cops - such as Ellerby's (Alec Baldwin) glee at capturing his enemy, but his sudden, unpredictable and violent mood swings directed at the nearest to him - reminiscent of Mr French's (Ray Winstone) attitude throughout the movie.
I was drawn into this skilful way this this cat and mouse chase folds out, the way Damon and DiCaprio hunt each other, circling around like vultures, inching closer to their kill. Each side realises there's rat in this game and it's a race to expose them first. DiCaprio is on good form with trademark shouting - after all he does play a lose cannon very well and Damon is equally believable as the bad guy, deviating from his cast type as the benign hero. Over two hours we see the players in this game edge closer with skill, mastery and nerve, but it's the brutal and abrupt ending which I think summarises the main message in the film. Ostensibly, the futility of crime - of those who cause it, and those who try to catch it. These men stand one inch apart on the same moral line.