Why “The Departed” Was Indeed the Best Picture

Daniel Roberts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences should not allow external forces to influences its decisions, but it does. In 2005 Crash won Best Picture, despite the fact that Brokeback Mountain, Munich and Capote were all better movies with more outstanding performances and thought-provoking plotlines. Crash was just a jumbled soup of race-related events that tricked Academy voters into thinking it was boldly attacking a controversial issue.

Finally, this year, the film that was truly the “best” actually won the statue. No, The Departed did not attempt to make any grand, sweeping political statement, but focused only on keeping viewers enthralled. And yet that’s a lofty enough goal—not all great movies need to do more than that. Scorsese perfected every aspect of filmmaking in this gem. The acting was stellar— I’m convinced that Leonardo DiCaprio is the best actor in Hollywood right now, and I also felt Mark Wahlberg should have snagged Best Supporting Actor. In addition, the movie captured Boston’s collective “mood” like no other film ever has, except maybe for Mystic River. The dialogue was tense and concise, and there was never a dull moment.

Among many others, one particular moment comes to mind as representative of the film’s excellence, and of its narrative complexity. Madolyn (Vera Farmiga) has opened up the envelope that Billy (DiCaprio), now dead, has given her. She pops in the audio CD while Colin (Matt Damon) is in the shower, and we watch her listen to the recording of Colin talking to Frank Costello (Nicholson) and plotting things. Madolyn doesn’t even necessarily know about Frank or recognize his voice, but she’s smart enough to be able to tell that something very bad is going on and that it has major implications about the man she’s soon to marry (but clearly doesn’t love). She doesn’t know quite what to do—she can’t freak out, since she realizes that she’s now in danger. But she knows she must do something. It’s a powerful scene, and one that suggests a popcorn action flick also needs good acting. This one has it, in spades. And this is to say nothing of other nail-biting, heart-wrenching moments like when Martin Sheen’s character gets tossed from a building and Costigan must keep walking and not indulge his grief, or when Farmiga cries at Costigan’s funeral and Colin sees it, realizes there was something going on.

I think a movie’s value should be judged only by the movie itself, not by some outside influence, such as which hot current issue the film purports to deal with. The Departed was breathtaking and magnificent—and forget all that, it was just plain fun—and it was indeed the Best Picture of 2006.

For a counterpoint: Why ‘The Departed’ Was Not the Best Picture

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