Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Monday, February 26, 2007

The Departed? Don't Bother

I watched the "The Departed" on a flight from Europe to the US recently, and can only say that, unlike other recent "Best Picture" award recipients, "The Departed" offers absolutely nothing of redeeming value in exchange for your two hours. I'm thinking of "The Lord of the Rings", "A Beautiful Mind" and "Crash" as three of the more recent winners having priceless truths to tell through their stories - truths about racism, compassion, the arresting power of beauty, how powerful the will to life is in some people, faith, courage, and the mixture of glory and tragedy that is humanity.

In contrast to this, "The Departed" offers a glimpse into the greed, foul language, drug use, and sexual obsessions of the mob in Boston. Thanks. I needed that?

"The Queen" reminded us of the psyche of a generation raised on duty rather than feelings, and offered a glimpse into Tony Blair's wisdom in bridging those generational gaps.

And though I've not seen them all, it seems that the rest of the candidates also had redeeming things to say. But "The Departed"? It leaves me with nothing. And maybe that's the point. But I'm usually hoping for a little more than 'nothing' or 'disgust' when watching a movie. Can someone help me understand the appeal?


At 26/2/07 20:16, Anonymous gt said...

hmmm. I think there is validity in artfully displaying the profane to create longings for true justice, or true faithfulness, or true purity... (in other words, I don't always need the story to be wrapped up) However, I don't think the Departed was crafted well enough to do this. A good example of what I'm thinking about is the "best picture" American Beauty. The themes and imagery in that movie make the message very clear and powerful.
I personally think the academy was just honoring the directors career rather than the movie itself.

At 1/3/07 08:56, Blogger Tom said...

I started watching "The Departed" last night around 9:30, intending to go to be around 10:00 and finishing the film tonight. I was up until midnight watching the film, then another hour digesting it.

True, there is nothing redeeming about this film. The only character with any redeeming qualities plays a bit role (Martin Sheen). It is foul and violent and disturbing. That said, I couldn't turn it off. I wanted to see if and how the main character (Leonardo) survived or perished in his life as an undercover cop. Scorsese created such a violent and repulsive character in Jack Nicholson, that I had to see if Leonardo could survive him. And I think that is the appeal. Most of us don't know anyone like Nicholson's character (if we do, we are hanging around the wrong neighborhoods) but most of us have someone in our lives who makes us a little afraid (bosses, spouses, neighbor, etc.) and we would like to think that justice will prevail and that we can survive this person or situation.

"The Departed" offers a nihilistic view of life; justice is saved for the next life.

At 2/3/07 14:23, Anonymous Mike said...

I think that you can separate a moral or message in a film from whether it was artfully done. The Departed, if nothing else, is a well-crafted movie, with strong writing, directing, acting. There are some movies/shows such as The Sopranos that are similar, where its hard to get any underlying positive message, but you can marvel at how well the story is told. The Departed is like that. I do think there is some message in showing the sadness of this life, how there is pure evil in some places, and how its not always on the "right" side of the law (the good guys are not always "good guys", if you will).

At 3/3/07 11:55, Blogger Josh said...

i think the real point should be, "the oscars? don't bother." all they do is simply encourage our society's obsession with fame and fortune and beauty. celebrities spend thousands of dollars on that single night in order to receive as much attention as possible for themselves for what i think comes down to an award show for whoever is the most popular right now. it's an epitome of the more than one thing that is wrong with western culture.

At 8/3/07 17:43, Blogger Bryan said...

I agree that the movie keeps you enthralled right through to the almost-bitter end. And by 'almost' I mean, once you realize (spoiler alert) that the one or two characters that you actually care about are killed, then you don't care to watch the last few moments of the film. But they are so short, that the credits are rolling before you've finished saying "disappointed."

Suspensefully written, directed, and edited - no doubt!
The real problem happened when the story plot was accepted in the first place. No vindication. No justice. No redemption. No hope. No faith. No forgiveness. No mercy. No ______.
(Excuse me, I recall one moment of 'justice' being inserted into the last scene where they reintroduce a minor character that had remained largely silent through the last 1/3 of the film to come and put a couple slugs in the perp and walk away. Ah, sweet.)

All that artful dressing is for naught if the Message never makes it into the Messenger's hand. Movies don't need to show us that evil exists in some places, the media (boo, hiss) does an excellent job of that.

Departed had all the elements of a good story except the crucial one - they never

At 26/3/07 07:43, Blogger Karis said...

I must admit I agree with Richard here. The Departed left me feeling disgusted and disappointed. (Yes, I did want to see what happened, as some other commentors did...)

A story does not have to have a "happy ending" or even uplifting to be something worth watching. I think of "400 Blows" (French), "The Talented Mr. Ripley" or even "The Graduate." These films pictured the mediocre, or even the darker side of life, but they left us with a lot to ponder about life and human nature.

Other films can portray suffering and injustice in a way that awakens compassion and the desire for a better world.

Sadly, the evil portrayed in "The Departed" only left me feeling sick.

Some of the comments make good points, how the story causes us to hope for Justice, or shows us that some things are not as we would expect. And certainly Scorcese has earned his Oscar for directing, but did THIS film have to get Best Picture?

I would hope that such an award would be granted to a film that is superior on many levels, one that presents the viewer with something of value, whether the story is inspiring or heavy, touching or dark.

It is disheartening that the Academy deemed this film the BEST of 2007.


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