PictureWell, well, well ... after slating one of the top movies around at the time of writing, I have to switch my attitude completely and start singing the praises of its AV quality, which is quite exceptional. The full 1080p transfer does the film terrific justice, allowing heaps of detail to be revealed whilst perfectly maintaining the filmic quality of The Departed with a very thin veneer of fine grain.
There is excellent facial detail on offer, with an utterly pristine and realistic presentation of eyes and the bags that dwell beneath them. Skin tones can often seem a little too pink, though, with some faces around the table when Alec Baldwin hosts his new task force team-briefing positively glowing like blancmanges. However, people, their clothing and their weaponry look just fine most of the time. Lighting always appears natural and the transfer is warm throughout. Colours are very well reproduced and come across deeply and richly and without over-saturation or smearing. Reds are particularly vivid, but check out the greens of the trees outside Colin's apartment or at the cemetery, or the gold of the dome-roof, or the costumes of the kids at the marina. The interiors of offices, apartments and bars are always well-defined and suffused with strong blacks and no grey fall-off, generous hues and a depth of field that is realistic and three-dimensional.
Detail is top notch. The streets have a great sharpness and the definition of the many rooftop meetings and/or confrontations can be quite awesome, with the background buildings standing proud in a clarity that rewards close scrutiny. Reflections in the glass of office or car windows are exemplary, too. There is also an abundance of visual information packed into the marsh scenes, or the Chinatown chase sequence, which has pixel-perfect neon lights decorating the image and shadows that offer up smart detail within them. The brightness of the flames from an exploding vehicle register with a vivid crispness on DiCaprio's face and the splashing of blood is always marvellously displayed.
If I had to find fault with the image it would be that there can be a slight shimmering that occurs on some occasional panning shots - up and down or side to side - when seen in brighter light conditions. But this is only mild and the image otherwise is spot on, with no trace of edge enhancement, blocking or any noise flitting about the picture.
SoundSimilarly, The Departed gets a major thumbs-up in the audio department, as well. Spreading out around the set-up in another glorious PCM Uncompressed 5.1 track that really opens the film up, the sound design may not be the most energetic that you've heard, but it still has it where it counts.
The Departed's PCM mix is excellent, but it is important to state that this not the kind of film that really exploits sensational surround effects. For a start, Scorsese's Boston-based bruiser is primarily dialogue-driven and when the louder and more exciting moments do come along they are delivered with a very quick snap that ignites the rear speakers only fleetingly. But this is still a very rewarding and well-engineered track, all the same. Dialogue is firmly-rooted and presented with absolute clarity. The soundtrack sizzles and Howard Shore's original score shines with vibrancy and presence during one or two sequences - namely the street-pursuit mentioned earlier. The singing at the opera hits the high notes with distinction and there are a couple of well-integrated engine roars and tyre-screeches dotted about.
When gunfire is brought into play, the effect is quite powerful and well-steered, though again mainly across the front. The sound design for the bullet-blasting mayhem has shots that are extremely loud and punchy and very realistic in the Heat-style, although the gunfire is a lot more sporadic than Mann's classic. The wrap-arounds, though very few, are well rendered. The mini-inferno that takes hold when a cover-blown apartment is torched has some flames catching light behind you, right to left and then sweeping inwards, and there is a nice sense of ambience on the streets and in the busy state police offices.
It is hard to fault the track when even smaller, more subtle effects receive pin-sharp attention to clarity and naturalism. Just don't go expecting anything too spectacular. There is a DD 5.1 option as well, but the PCM, though not that much more dynamic, still offers a greater sense of immersion and bullets that pound through the air with a degree more power and cleaner directionality.
ExtrasThe extras for The Departed go something like this
Stranger Than fiction: The True Story of Whitey Bulger, Southie and 'The Departed' runs for 21.07 mins and tells of how screenwriter William Monahan''s script evolved from just a treatment of the original Infernal Affairs, and was then filtered through the true-life reign of terror of South Boston mobster Whitey Bulger - who would become the basis of Frank Costello's character - and how the real location formed the soul of the movie. We hear all sorts of pseudo-hero-worship tales from the Boston locals who remember him and the crimes he committed, and we get to meet some of the reporters who covered his exploits and even the cops who were assigned the task of bringing him down. There is also some unsettling surveillance footage of the hood and his stooges conferring shadily on street corners. This is a great little documentary and features lots of commentary and participation from Scorsese, DiCaprio, Monahan, Damon and Walhberg.
The next feature is called Crossing Criminal Cultures and runs for 24 .03 mins. This takes the form of a chronicle of Scorsese's mob movies to date and how he gained this fascination and inside-knowledge of the world of organized crime. A lot of the same participants as before are featured here, as Scorsese talks about his roots in Little Italy and how insular and violent the culture was that shaped his worldview and how, ultimately, it found a release via his most recognized and revered genre of gangster films. Especially pleasing is the amount of classic footage shown from the early mob-thrillers that inspired and influenced him, such as White Heat, Little Caesar and Angels With Dirty Faces and his comments about them are worth their weight in gold. Also held up for inspection are some of his own key movies like Mean Streets, Goodfellas, Casino and finally the show comes around to The Departed. Again, this is a great little documentary that proves, once more, just how enthusiastic and interesting the filmmaker can be.
Then we have a selection of nine Deleted Scenes, which are, on the whole, mainly extensions of things we have already seen but they do add some nice character background and enhancements to various set-ups and revelations. The best element by far, though, is the lengthy and interesting introduction that Scorsese supplies for each snipped-scene. Bizarrely looking, and sounding, a lot like Woody Allen, the director presents his intros, for even the briefest of clips, with a passion for his subject that is intimate and full of revealing contextual insight. Quite often he even goes on for longer than the deleted scene in question. Again, this is excellent stuff ... despite my feelings about the overall film.
Rounding things off we also get the original Theatrical Trailer which, unlike the other extras, is actually presented in high-definition. Which is nice. Overall, this is a neat selection of bonus features ... though I would have liked a meatier making of.
VerdictTough call, really. The AV quality of the Blu-ray disc is excellent and will please fans of the film no end. The transfer is wonderful, folks. But the film itself, as I have already pointed out is, in my eyes, nothing more than a dead duck. DiCaprio delivers the goods but the others are a hammy waste of time and Scorsese's heightened theatricality doesn't do the story any favours either. The screenplay wastes the integrity of the original Infernal Affairs and makes a mockery of an intrinsically absorbing scenario. But I know that what I say will not affect The Departed being a heavy-hitter on any format and, certainly, the release is a good solid one, with a couple of great extras and a sterling transfer to satisfy the Scorsese-buffs.
In many eyes, this is a classic-in-the-making. In mine, it is a clunker.
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