The Departed

The Departed is a 2006 American crime drama film [2] directed by Martin Scorsese and written by William Monahan. It is a remake of the 2002 Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs.[3] The Departed stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, and Mark Wahlberg, with Martin Sheen, Ray Winstone, Vera Farmiga, Anthony Anderson, and Alec Baldwin in supporting roles.

The Departed
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMartin Scorsese
Produced by
Screenplay byWilliam Monahan
Based on
Music byHoward Shore
CinematographyMichael Ballhaus
Edited byThelma Schoonmaker
Distributed byWarner Bros. Pictures
Release date
  • September 26, 2006 (2006-09-26) (Ziegfeld Theatre)
  • October 6, 2006 (2006-10-06) (United States)
Running time
151 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$90 million[1]
Box office$291.5 million[1]

The film takes place in Boston. Irish Mob boss Francis "Frank" Costello (Nicholson) plants Colin Sullivan (Damon) as a mole within the Massachusetts State Police; simultaneously, the police assign undercover state trooper William "Billy" Costigan (DiCaprio) to infiltrate Costello's crew. When both sides realize the situation, Sullivan and Costigan each attempt to discover the other's identity before they are found out. The character Colin Sullivan is loosely based on the corrupt FBI agent John Connolly, while the character Frank Costello is based on gangster Whitey Bulger.[4][5]

The Departed was a critical and commercial success, and won several awards, including four Oscars at the 79th Academy Awards, for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Film Editing;[6] Mark Wahlberg was also nominated for Best Supporting Actor.


In South Boston some years ago, Colin Sullivan, a young boy, is introduced to organized crime by the Irish-American mob boss Frank Costello. Over the years, Costello grooms him to become a mole inside the Massachusetts State Police. Sullivan is accepted into the Special Investigations Unit, which focuses on organized crime. Before graduating from the state police academy, William "Billy" Costigan Jr. is recruited by Captain Queenan and Staff Sergeant Dignam to go undercover, as his family ties to organized crime make him a perfect infiltrator. He drops out of the academy and serves time in prison on a fake assault charge to increase his credibility.

Each man infiltrates his respective target organization. Sullivan begins a romance with police psychiatrist Madolyn Madden. Costigan has a session with her as a condition of his probation, and they begin a relationship, too. After Costello escapes a sting operation, each mole becomes aware of the other's existence. Sullivan is told to find the "rat" and asks Costello for information to identify the informer.

Costigan follows Costello into a porn theater, where Costello gives Sullivan an envelope containing personal information on his crew members. Costigan chases Sullivan through Chinatown, but neither man sees the other's face. In addition, Sullivan accidentally stabs a truck loader, thinking him to be his pursuer. Sullivan later has Queenan tailed to a meeting with Costigan on the roof of an empty building. Costello's men arrive, and drop Queenan to his death, before engaging in a brief shootout with the police. Crew member Delahunt subsequently dies from a gunshot wound. Television news states that Delahunt had been an undercover cop, working for the Boston Police Department, but Costello does not believe the story, reasoning that it is an attempt by the police to dissuade him from finding the real informant. With Queenan's absence, Dignam is ordered by Captain George Ellerby to take a leave of absence after a fight with Sullivan, but a furious Dignam resigns.

Using Queenan's phone, Sullivan reaches Costigan, who refuses to abort his mission. Sullivan learns from Queenan's diary that Costello is a protected FBI informant, causing him to worry about his own identity being revealed. With Costigan's help, Costello is traced to a cocaine drop-off, where a gunfight erupts between Costello's crew and the police. Most of the crew are killed. Costello, confronted by Sullivan, admits he is an FBI informant. Costello tries to shoot Sullivan, but Sullivan kills him with multiple gunshots. With Costello dead, Sullivan is applauded the next day by everyone on the force. In good faith, Costigan comes to Sullivan for restoration of his true identity and to be paid for his work, but notices the envelope from Costello on Sullivan's desk and flees—finally realizing Sullivan is the mole. Fearing retaliation, Sullivan erases Costigan's records from the police computer system.

Sullivan is unaware that Madolyn had an affair with Costigan when she tells Sullivan that she is pregnant with a son. Costigan forwards Madolyn inherited recordings of Costello's conversations incriminating Sullivan as Costello's mole, prompting Madolyn to abandon Sullivan. Costigan, determined to implicate Sullivan, ambushes Sullivan at the building where Queenan died and holds him at gunpoint. Trooper Brown, one of Costigan's friends in the academy, arrives as arranged by Costigan, but, suspicious, holds Costigan at gunpoint. Costigan attempts to justify his actions to Brown by exposing Sullivan as Costello's mole. Trooper Barrigan from Special Investigations arrives, kills both Costigan and Brown, and rescues Sullivan, revealing that he was a second mole for Costello, but Sullivan double-crosses Barrigan and kills him.

Sullivan frames Barrigan as the mole, and also has Costigan posthumously awarded the Medal of Merit. At Costigan's funeral, Sullivan notices that Madolyn is tearful. As they leave the gravesite, Sullivan attempts to ask her about the baby, but she ignores him leaving the audience wondering if the baby is Costigan’s considering Sullivan’s problems with impotence. Sullivan returns from the grocery store to his apartment, only to be ambushed by Dignam, who is wearing gloves and booties so as to leave no fingerprints or footprints. Dignam shoots Sullivan dead and leaves the apartment, putting on a beanie in the process, as a rat scurries across the balcony outside the window.



In January 2003, Warner Bros., producer Brad Grey, and actor/producer Brad Pitt bought the rights to remake the Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs (2002) from Media Asia for $1.75 million.[7][8] William Monahan was secured as screenwriter, and later Martin Scorsese, who admired Monahan's script, came on board as director.[8][5][9]

In March 2004, United Press International announced that Scorsese would be remaking Infernal Affairs and setting it in Boston, and Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt were slated to star.[10] Pitt, tentatively scheduled to play Sullivan, later declined to play the role, saying a younger actor should play the part; he decided to produce the film instead.[9] Scorsese's associate Kenneth Lonergan suggested Matt Damon, who grew up in Boston, for the part of Sullivan, and Scorsese asked Jack Nicholson to play Costello.[5]

Nicholson wanted the film to have "something a little more" than the usual gangster film, and screenwriter Monahan came up with the idea of basing the Costello character on Irish-American gangster Whitey Bulger. This gave the screenplay an element of realism – and an element of dangerous uncertainty, because of the wide-ranging carte blanche the FBI gave Bulger in exchange for revealing information about fellow gangsters.[5] A technical consultant on the film was Tom Duffy, who had served three decades on the Boston Police Department, particularly as an undercover detective investigating the Irish mob.[11][12]

The Departed was officially greenlit by Warners in early 2005 and began shooting in the spring of 2005.[8] Although some of the film was shot on location in Boston, for budgetary and logistical reasons many scenes, interiors in particular, were shot in locations and sets in New York City, which had tax incentives for filmmakers that Boston at the time did not.[5][13]

Themes and motifs

Film critic Stanley Kauffmann describes a major theme of The Departed as one of the oldest in drama – the concept of identity – and how it "affects one's actions, emotions, self-assurance and even dreams."[14]

The father-son relationship is a motif throughout the film. Costello acts as a father figure to both Sullivan and Costigan, while Queenan acts as Costello's foil in the role of father figure. Sullivan addresses Costello as "Dad" whenever he calls to inform him of police activities.

In the final scene, a rat is seen on Sullivan's window ledge. Scorsese acknowledges that while it is not meant to be taken literally, it somewhat symbolizes the "quest for the rat" in the film and the strong sense of distrust among the characters, much like post-9/11 America. The window view behind the rat is a nod to gangster films like Little Caesar (1931), Scarface (1932), and White Heat (1949).[15]

Throughout the film, Scorsese uses an "X" motif to foreshadow death in a manner similar to Howard Hawks' classic film Scarface (1932). Examples include (but are not limited to) shots of cross-beam supports in an airport walkway when Costigan is phoning Sgt. Dignam, the taped windows of the building Queenan enters before being thrown to his death, behind Costigan's head in the elevator before he is shot, and the carpeted hallway floor when Sullivan returns to his apartment at the film's end.[16]


Box office

The Departed grossed $132.4 million in the United States and Canada and $159 million in other territories for a total gross of $291.5 million, against a production budget of $90 million.[1]

The film grossed $26.9 million in its opening weekend, becoming the third Scorsese film to debut at number one.[17] In the following three weeks the film grossed $19 million, $13.5 million and $9.8 million, finishing second at the box office each time, before grossing $7.7 million and dropping to 5th in its fifth week.[18]

Critical response

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a 91% approval rating based on 277 reviews, with an average rating of 8.24/10. The website's critics consensus reads, "Featuring outstanding work from an excellent cast, The Departed is a thoroughly engrossing gangster drama with the gritty authenticity and soupy morality we come to expect from Martin Scorsese."[19] Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the film a score of 85 out of 100 based on 39 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[20] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A–" on an A+ to F scale.[21]

Entertainment Weekly put it on its end-of-the-decade "best of" list, saying: "If they're lucky, directors make one classic film in their career. Martin Scorsese has one per decade (Taxi Driver in the '70s, Raging Bull in the '80s, Goodfellas in the '90s). His 2006 Irish Mafia masterpiece kept the streak alive."[22]

Online critic James Berardinelli awarded the film four stars out of four, praising it as "an American epic tragedy." He went on to claim that the film deserves to be ranked alongside Scorsese's past successes, including Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and Goodfellas.[23]

Andrew Lau, the co-director of Infernal Affairs, who was interviewed by Hong Kong newspaper Apple Daily, said: "Of course I think the version I made is better, but the Hollywood version is pretty good too. [Scorsese] made the Hollywood version more attuned to American culture." Andy Lau,[24] one of the main actors in Infernal Affairs, when asked how the movie compares to the original, said: "The Departed was too long and it felt as if Hollywood had combined all three Infernal Affairs movies together."[25] Lau pointed out that the remake featured some of the "golden quotes" of the original but had much more profanity. He ultimately rated The Departed 8/10 and said that the Hollywood remake is worth a view, though according to Lau's spokeswoman Alice Tam, he felt that the combination of the two female characters into one in The Departed was not as good as the original storyline.[26]

A few critics were disappointed in the film, including J. Hoberman of the Village Voice, who wrote: "Overwrought as The Departed may be, it's nothing that wouldn't have been cured by losing Jack [Nicholson] (and maybe half an hour). Too bad the bottom line meant Scorsese had to sell that hambone Mephistopheles his soul."[27]

Top ten lists

The film appeared on many critics' top ten lists of the best films of 2006.[28] Carrie Rickey of The Philadelphia Inquirer, Joe Morgenstern of The Wall Street Journal, Ruthe Stein of the San Francisco Chronicle, and Steven Rea of The Philadelphia Inquirer named it one of the top ten films of 2006.[28] Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times named it the best film of the 2000s.[29]


At the 64th Golden Globe Awards on January 15, 2007, The Departed won one award for Best Director (Martin Scorsese), while being nominated for five other awards including Best Picture, Best Actor (Leonardo DiCaprio), Best Supporting Actor (Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg), and Best Screenplay (William Monahan).[30]

At the 79th Academy Awards on February 25, 2007, The Departed won four Academy Awards: Best Picture (Graham King), Best Director (Martin Scorsese), Best Film Editing (Thelma Schoonmaker), and Best Adapted Screenplay (William Monahan). Mark Wahlberg was also nominated for the Best Supporting Actor award for his performance, but he lost to Alan Arkin for his role in Little Miss Sunshine.

The film marked the first time Scorsese won an Oscar after six previous losses.[31] Many felt that he deserved it years earlier for prior efforts.[32] Some have even gone further, calling it a Lifetime Achievement Award for a lesser film.[33] Scorsese himself joked that he won because: "This is the first movie I've done with a plot."[34] While accepting the award, Scorsese stated that "I just want to say, too, that so many people over the years have been wishing this for me, strangers, you know. I go walking in the street people say something to me, I go in a doctor's office, I go in a...whatever...elevators, people are saying, "You should win one, you should win one." I go for an x-ray, "You should win one." And I'm saying, "Thank you." And then friends of mine over the years and friends who are here tonight are wishing this for me and my family. I thank you. This is for you."

At the 11th Satellite Awards on December 18, 2006, The Departed won awards for Best Ensemble, Motion Picture, Best Motion Picture, Drama, Best Screenplay – Adapted (William Monahan), and Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Leonardo DiCaprio).

In 2008, the American Film Institute nominated this film for its Top 10 Gangster Films list.[35]

Home media

The Departed was released by Warner Brothers on DVD in 2007. The film is available in a single-disc full screen (1.33:1), single-disc widescreen (2.40:1) edition, and 2-disc special edition. The second disc contains deleted scenes; a feature about the influence of New York’s Little Italy on Scorsese; a Turner Classic Movies profile; and a 21-minute documentary titled Stranger Than Fiction: The True Story of Whitey Bulger, Southie and The Departed[36] about the crimes that influenced Scorsese in creating the film, including the story of James "Whitey" Bulger, upon whom Jack Nicholson's character is based.[37]

The Region 1 version has three available audio tracks: English, Spanish, and French (all of which are in Dolby Digital 5.1), and three subtitle tracks (English, Spanish, French). The film was released on HD DVD and Blu-ray at the same time as the standard-definition DVD. The 2-Disc Special Edition was packaged in a Limited Edition Steelbook. It marked the first time that an Oscar-winning Best Picture was released to the home video market in DVD format only, as VHS was phased out by the start of 2006.


There were two albums released for The Departed, one presenting the original score composed for the film by Howard Shore, and the other featuring earlier recordings, mostly pop/rock songs, which were used on the soundtrack.


The Departed: Music from the Motion Picture
Soundtrack album by
Various Artists
ReleasedNovember 7, 2006
GenreRock, country, pop
LabelWarner Sunset
ProducerJason Cienkus

As with previous Scorsese films, Robbie Robertson had a hand in picking the music. The film opens with "Gimme Shelter" by The Rolling Stones ("Let It Loose" also appears later on), and prominently plays "I'm Shipping Up to Boston" by Dropkick Murphys with lyrics written by Woody Guthrie, which gained the band some popularity and their first and only platinum selling single. The film features the live version of Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb" from the 1990 Berlin Wall concert performed by Roger Waters, Van Morrison, and Rick Danko, Levon Helm, and Garth Hudson of The Band.

Although "Gimme Shelter" is featured twice in the film, the song does not appear on the album soundtrack. Also heard in the movie but not featured on the soundtrack is "Thief's Theme" by Nas, "Well Well Well" by John Lennon, "Bang Bang" by Joe Cuba, and the Act II Sextet from Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor.

The film closes with a cover of Don Gibson's "Sweet Dreams", by Roy Buchanan.

Track Listing
1."Comfortably Numb"Roger Waters (Feat. Van Morrison & The Band)7:59
2."Sail On, Sailor"The Beach Boys3:18
3."Let It Loose"The Rolling Stones5:18
4."Sweet Dreams"Roy Buchanan3:32
5."One Way Out"The Allman Brothers Band4:57
6."Baby Blue"Badfinger3:36
7."I'm Shipping Up to Boston"Dropkick Murphys2:34
8."Nobody but Me"The Human Beinz2:18
9."Tweedle Dee"LaVern Baker3:10
10."Sweet Dreams (of You)"Patsy Cline2:34
11."The Departed Tango"Howard Shore, Marc Ribot3:32
12."Beacon Hill"Howard Shore, Sharon Isbin2:33


The film score for The Departed was written by Howard Shore and performed by guitarists Sharon Isbin, G. E. Smith, Larry Saltzman and Marc Ribot. The score was recorded in Shore's own studio in New York State. The album, The Departed: Original Score, was released December 5, 2006 by New Line, and produced by Jason Cienkus.

Scorsese described the music as "a very dangerous and lethal tango" and cited the guitar-based score of Murder by Contract and the zither in The Third Man as inspiration.[38]

Cancelled sequel

Although many of the key characters in the film are deceased by the movie's end, there was a script written for a sequel. This was ultimately shelved due to the expense and because Scorsese didn't want to do a sequel.[39]

See also


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  2. "The Departed (2006) – Martin Scorsese". AllMovie. Archived from the original on February 2, 2019. Retrieved February 2, 2019.
  3. "Infernal Affairs vs. the remake, The Departed". Archived from the original on October 23, 2013. Retrieved September 20, 2013.
  4. Kennedy, Helen (June 23, 2011). "Notorious gangster Whitey Bulger was inspiration for Jack Nicholson's character in 'The Departed'". Daily News. New York City: Tronc. Archived from the original on November 8, 2014. Retrieved August 23, 2012.
  5. Kagan, Jeremy, ed. (2012). "Martin Scorsese, The Departed". Directors Close Up 2: Interviews with Directors Nominated for Best Film by the Directors Guild of America: 2006–2012. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press. p. 50. ISBN 978-0-8108-8391-8. Archived from the original on April 24, 2016. Retrieved October 17, 2015.
  6. "2007". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Archived from the original on April 17, 2018. Retrieved February 22, 2016.
  7. Kit, Zorianna; Gardner, Chris (February 3, 2003). "Warners pays to have Affairs". The Hollywood Reporter. Los Angeles, California: Eldridge Industries. Archived from the original on September 21, 2013. Retrieved November 8, 2018.
  8. Hayes, Dade (December 14, 2006). "Brad Pitt's role as filmmaker threatens to eclipse his actorly exploits and tabloid profile". Variety. Los Angeles, California: Penske Media Corporation. Archived from the original on November 8, 2018. Retrieved November 8, 2018.
  9. Mitchell, Elvis (February 2007). "Brad Pitt's Great Escape". Interview. New York City: Crystal Ball Media. Archived from the original on November 8, 2018. Retrieved November 8, 2018.
  10. "Leo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt lead Affairs". United Press International. March 2, 2004. Archived from the original on November 7, 2018. Retrieved November 8, 2018.
  11. "Departed, The: DiCaprio". Archived from the original on June 16, 2017. Retrieved February 22, 2016.
  12. Roman, Julian (October 2, 2006). "Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio Smell A Rat in 'The Departed'". MovieWeb. Las Vegas, Nevada: Watchr Media. Archived from the original on November 8, 2018. Retrieved February 22, 2016.
  13. Fee, Gayle (November 23, 2009). "Damon to shoot in Massachusetts again?". Boston Herald. Boston, Massachusetts: Digital First Media. Archived from the original on September 17, 2016. Retrieved September 16, 2016 via
  14. Kauffmann, Stanley (October 30, 2006). "Themes and Schemes". The New Republic. 235 (18).
  15. Topel, Fred (October 5, 2006). "Martin Scorsese Talks The Departed Rat". Canmag. Archived from the original on November 1, 2011. Retrieved February 25, 2013.
  16. Rodriguez, Rene (January 11, 2007). "X marks the spot in 'The Departed'". The Miami Herald. Miami, Florida: McClatchy. Archived from the original on November 26, 2009. Retrieved November 26, 2009.
  17. Gray, Brandon (October 9, 2006). "'Departed' Out-Muscles 'Massacre'". Box Office Mojo. Archived from the original on November 8, 2018. Retrieved November 8, 2018.
  18. Gray, Brandon (November 6, 2006). "'Borat' Bombards the Top Spot". Box Office Mojo. Archived from the original on November 9, 2018. Retrieved November 8, 2018.
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  21. "CinemaScore". CinemaScore. Archived from the original on January 19, 2015. Retrieved June 1, 2019.
  22. Geier, Thom; Jensen, Jeff; Jordan, Tina (December 11, 2009). "The 100 Greatest Movies, TV Shows, Albums, Books, Characters, Scenes, Episodes, Songs, Dresses, Music Videos, and Trends that Entertained Us Over the Past 10 Years". Entertainment Weekly. No. 1079/1080. New York City: Meredith Corporation. pp. 74–84. Archived from the original on June 7, 2011. Retrieved November 8, 2018.
  23. Berardinelli, James. "Review: Departed, The". Retrieved October 17, 2009.
  24. "My Infernal Affairs is better than Scorsese's says Lau". The Guardian. London, England: Guardian Media Group. October 10, 2006. Archived from the original on June 5, 2014. Retrieved October 10, 2006.
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  27. Hoberman, J. (September 26, 2006). "Bait and Switch". The Village Voice. New York City: Voice Media Group. Archived from the original on May 16, 2015. Retrieved November 8, 2018.
  28. "Metacritic: 2006 Film Critic Top Ten Lists". Metacritic. Archived from the original on December 13, 2007. Retrieved January 8, 2008.
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  36. "Stranger Than Fiction: The True Story of Whitey Bulger, Southie and 'The Departed' (Video 2007)". IMDb. April 25, 2007. Archived from the original on February 6, 2016. Retrieved February 22, 2016.
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Further reading

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