- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 7, 2006

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit group dedicated to improving the entertainment lives of families, provides reviews of the latest movies from a parenting perspective. For more reviews, click on commonsensemedia.org.

‘The Departed’

Rating: R for brutal violence, pervasive language, some strong sexual content and drug material.

Common Sense Media: Pause. For ages 17 and older.

**** (out of five stars)

Running time: 151 minutes

Common Sense note: Parents need to know this film is not for children — but many will want to see it due to the incredibly heavy promotion during TV shows popular with young viewers. It’s far too graphically violent for those younger than 17, including images of heads being shot and spurting blood, limbs being broken, and expressions of pain by victims of shootings and beatings.

Families can discuss the difficulties posed by loyalties and lies. To do their job, the two moles lie to their friends, associates and family. What emotional difficulties does that situation create? What kind of stress would that put on your life over a long period of time? How would you feel if you found out someone you cared about was living a double life?

Common Sense review: A densely layered, lively saga of betrayal and revenge, “The Departed” features powerhouse performances and virtuoso profanity. The plot centers on two moles working at cross purposes while using similar methods — that is, tipping off their superiors to their opponents’ plans via cell phones. Directed by Martin Scorsese and scripted by William Monahan, the movie is brutal and brainy, with speedy plot twists and deceptions layered on top of deceptions.

The structural complexities are compounded by the fact that the two moles resemble each other, to the point that when they both don baseball caps and lean back into the shadows, they’re hard to tell apart. Still, they take on very different appearances to play their parts: “Straight-arrow” Colin (Matt Damon) makes his way through the ranks of the Massachusetts state troopers while spying for flamboyant Irish mobster Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson). In turn, Capt. Queenan (Martin Sheen) and pugnacious Sgt. Dignam (a very entertaining Mark Wahlberg) recruit their own mole, Billy (Leonardo DiCaprio) — whose family background is filled with gangsters and crooks — to infiltrate Frank’s crew.

Both Colin and Billy might be described as belonging to “gangs” — the cops and the criminals — where charismatic leaders (Queenan and Frank) inspire loyalty as well as fear. Both sides are populated by colorful, manly men. Billy and Colin are the next generation, each troubled in his own way. As if to underline their similarities, both Billy and Colin are drawn to sad-eyed police department therapist Madolyn (Vera Farmiga).

“The Departed” loves its excesses. Mr. Scorsese grants Mr. Nicholson a wide berth, and his antics provide plenty of “color.” Doubles and different at the same time, Billy and Colin struggle with their “identities,” cleverly illustrated by both the surveillance and communications technology they use and the film’s editing, which emphasizes their parallel tracks and near collisions.

Sexual content: A couple of sex scenes show nudity; Frank’s girlfriend appears in underwear and they share sexual banter; recurrent sexual slang; scene in porn theater includes brief shots of nude bodies and moaning sounds; Frank accuses priests of sexual abuse.

Language alert: Frequent use — more than 200 instances — of an extreme expletive, use of racist and homophobic terms and other profanity.

Violence alert: The violence is explicit, bloody and frequent.

Social-behavior alert: Frequent cigarette-smoking and drinking in bars, Billy asks for Valium, then takes prescription anti-depressants repeatedly.

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