A Convoluted and unengaging long haul
, 13 Aug 2012
For me the biggest problem with this film was, for all of the effort the makers put into making this an intricate, complicated intelligent story they totally forgot to create characters that the viewer can care about. I wasn't able to forge any kind of relationship or even develop any empathy for any of the characters in this film because I was spending all of my mental energy trying to keep up with the increasingly complicated array plot. In addition, the Departed has as much characterisation as a Robert Rodriguez film with little exposition or back story. For me, Rodriguez can get away with this all style no substance brand of filmmaking because when I watch one of his films I watch it to see a bunch of really physically attractive people blowing stuff up and having extended gun battles. I don't expect to see a masterpiece of emotionally involving drama. For that, I turn to Scorsese or Herzog.
I understand that any film that deals with the cat and mouse of multiple interconnected characters deceiving each other is by its very nature going to be complicated, but I think that in this case Scorsese has mistaken being complicated with being intelligent. I have nothing against complex stories that keep you guessing. For example I loved the Usual Suspects. That film was a suspense filled thriller in which you never quite knew exactly what was going on but it was easy to keep everybody straight. I never felt lost or confused to the point that I felt uncomfortable. By contrast, the Departed throws layer on top of layer of deception until it becomes an incomprehensible convoluted mess.
I must say that I was very disappointed with this film because one of my favourite films of all time is Goodfellas. I love it because of the colourful cast of characters and the fact that the storyline is simple enough to follow that I can be swept away into the world of those characters. By contrast, the lead characters in the Departed are plain and forgettable and many of the supporting characters add little to the film. Characters are brought in with little introduction and in a few instances no explanation of how they relate to each other. At times the characters also seem to act impulsively and their motivations arent explained. The actors do the best with what they have been given, its just that haven't been given much. There really aren't any classic lines of dialogue in this film as with several of Scorsese's other films
To my mind, far too much of this film was left up to the imagination of the viewer and the ability of the viewer to fit the pieces together for themselves. This is just lazy storytelling on the part of the filmmakers. The Italian Job had its unresolved ending sure but everything that preceded that ending was explained to the viewer. Same thing with Lost In Translation. I dont need to be spoon-fed an entire plot but Im not interested in fitting the entire puzzle together for myself either. When it comes to films I'm either looking for visceral excitement or I'm after an emotionally engaging experience. Scorsese fails to deliver either of these. What he does do is demand a lot from the viewer whilst not giving them much to work with.
I don't mind having to watch a film a second or even a third time to unravel the web and I dont mind having certain parts of the plot left up to the imagination, leaving me to debate the film with my friends in the pub afterwards and eventually come to some conclusions of my own. I dont mind engaging the brain cells whilst watching a film.
But if I'm not given a reason to care about the characters and the film unengaging on an emotional level why should I bother?
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