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The Departed
2006; directed by Martin Scorsese

The pictures of Martin Scorsese have been hugely influential on Hong Kong film-makers, those from the "New Wave" in particular. Some of them, like John Woo in Bullet in the Head, have gone as far as to include direct homages to Scorsese's movies. With The Departed, Scorsese returns the favor with a remake of the popular Andrew Lau film Infernal Affairs.

The Departed    The Departed

For those of you unfamiliar with the story, the film revolves around a pair of moles. Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) is a top cadet who is quickly promoted to working in an elite anti-organized crime unit who is actually working for Boston's biggest gangster, Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson). Billy Costigan's (Leonardo DiCaprio) troubled past and familial connections to the Irish mob have him tabbed as a wash-out in the police academy, but he is actually enlisted by Charles Queenan (Martin Sheen) to participate in a clandestine operation where he infiltrates Costello's gang. As the case on Costello grows stronger, both moles become aware of each other, and start playing a game of cat-and-mouse, which is made even more complicated via their shared relationship with a police psychiatrist, Madolyn Madden (Vera Farmiga).

The Departed    The Departed

Scorsese's version stays fairly close to the original, but there are a few exceptions. Most notably is the change in the age of the moles. In Infernal Affairs, they've both been "in the game" for over ten years, while in The Departed, they're basically a year out of the police academy. This leads the viewer while watching The Departed to have to take some leaps of faith as to how these two young "kids" could get in such powerful positions so fast. Also, the age difference does take away from the characterization somewhat, as the longer time span in Infernal Affairs allows for more development, especially with Lau Kin-Ming (the IA equivalent to Colin Sullivan) whose time in the police force inspires him to want to become a "real" cop, in contrast to The Departed, where the character comes off as just simply a unrepentant power-hungry man.

The Departed    The Departed

Despite the changes, though, The Departed still feels faithful enough to Infernal Affairs that it doesn't come off like a cheap marketing ploy like so many of the Asia-to-Hollywood movie remakes (particularly anything in the horror realm) end up being. And even though this isn't Scorsese's best work by a longshot -- it really shouldn't have ended up being the movie that earned him his first best director Oscar -- there's no denying that he's still one of the greatest living directors, and is still capable of creating great films. From the dark humor, to the classic rock soundtrack, to the sudden blasts of bloody violence, The Departed comes off a bit as being a "greatest hits" entry for Scorsese -- and there's really nothing wrong with that at all.


Here is a breakdown of who is playing what character in each version:




Crime boss

Frank Costello (The Departed)
Hon Sam (Infernal Affairs)

Jack Nicholson (The Departed)
Eric Tsang (Infernal Affairs)

Police commander

Charles Queenan (The Departed)
Wong Chi-Sing (Infernal Affairs)

Martin Sheen (The Departed)
Anthony Wong (Infernal Affairs)

Undercover cop

Billy Costigan (The Departed)
Chen Wing-Yan (Infernal Affairs)

Leonardo DiCaprio (The Departed)
Tony Leung (Infernal Affairs, adult)
Shawn Yu (Infernal Affairs, teenager)

Gangster mole

Colin Sullivan (The Departed)
Lau Kin-Ming (Infernal Affairs)

Matt Damon (The Departed)
Andy Lau (Infernal Affairs, adult)
Edison Chen (Infernal Affairs, teenager)

Mole's wife/psychiatrist

Madolyn Madden (The Departed)
Mary (Infernal Affairs, wife)
Lee Sum-Yee (Infernal Affairs, psychiatrist)

Vera Farmiga (The Departed)
Sammi Cheng (Infernal Affairs, wife)
Kelly Chen (Infernal Affairs, psychiatrist)

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