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Scorsese’s The Departed Debuts on 4K UHD

(L-R) Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio in The Departed. Image courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Warner Bros. Pictures may have celebrated their centennial birthday last year with an entire parade of classic and award-winning films debuts in the 4K UHD format for the first time, but their 101st year in business has not slowed that hit parade down. This month, Martin Scorsese’s 2006 crime thriller The Departed arrived in the highest physical format with some fresh cover art to go with the boost in resolution. Adding a little decorative polish on the outside, The Departed will also have SteelBook packaging available. Film Obsessive was able to receive an advance copy for the disc review in our “Off the Shelf” series.

The Film

Jack Nicholson and Matt Damon converse in The Departed.
Jack Nicholson and Matt Damon in The Departed. Photo credit: Andrew Cooper. 2006 Warner Bros.

Novelist and screenwriter William Monahan borrowed the real-life exploits of Boston’s Winter Hill Gang and merged it with a remake of the 2002 Hong Kong trilogy starter Infernal Affairs to make The Departed. In the film, Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon play two very different men of infiltration. DiCaprio is Billy Costigan, an undercover state trooper assigned by Captain Queenan (Martin Sheen) and Staff Sergeant Dingham (Mark Wahlberg) to work as an underling in the crime network of Irish mob boss Frank Costello, played by Jack Nicholson. Running parallel, Damon’s Colin Sullivan is one of Frank’s nefarious men rising the ranks as a plant in the Massachusetts State Police Department under the nose of Captain Ellerby (Alec Baldwin).

As tension in the South Boston streets between cops and criminals reaches a peak, both sides suspect inside moles that a foiling operations and busts. Reaching trusted levels in their undercover roles, Costigan and Sullivan become tasked by their respective superiors with smoking out whoever the spy is, which means they are essentially pressed to find themselves. There’s the rub that creates this tangled cat-and-mouse film filled to the pint glass brim with double crosses, triple crosses, and powder kegs of intrigue.

Monahan would turn this, his second Hollywood screenplay after Kingdom of Heaven, into Oscar gold with the stewardship of famed director Martin Scorsese manipulating this A-list chess board. With a big cast, a bold R-rating, and plenty of Rolling Stones needle drops, The Departed couldn’t drip anymore Scorsese-ness. To date, The Departed stands as Scorsese’s only individual Academy Award for Best Director. The film took the Best Picture prize in a soft year versus Babel, Little Miss Sunshine, Letters from Iwo Jima, and The Queen while also being honored for Best Film Editing at the 79th Academy Awards. As it stood, no film in 2006 had this much pedigree and juice, even if our own Film Obsessive team ranked The Departed as Martin’s 18th best career film last fall. 

The Disc

The cover art of The Departed on 4K
Image courtesy of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

The 4K remaster of The Departed for this disc release was completed at Warner Bros. Discovery’s Motion Picture Imaging (MPI) with the participation of the film’s Academy Award-winning editor Thelma Schoonmaker (Raging Bull, The Aviator). She’s a heck of a get. This HDR presentation also fills the digital download of the film included in the purchase. With so many scenes set at night, the high definition treatment really helps with the depth and contrast in darkness. From a sound standpoint, the hundreds of curse words never rang so loud alongside the broken bones and gunshots. 

Granted, we are talking about a Warner Bros. disc where the menus stay plain and the features are distilled and, for the most part, shortened. Still, credit should go where credit is due as this 4K UHD disc does have one new special feature from the previous ones ported over from prior Blu-ray and DVD releases. That piece is “Guilt and Betrayal: Looking into The Departed.” It runs 15 minutes and focuses on Martin Scorsese’s recollections from the pre-production and time on set. Watching it, one forgets this movie is two years shy of being 20 years old as the old master waxes on about how impressed he was at the talent assembled and the teamwork to make the picture. His nostalgia fuels our own.

The other special features are a selection of carryovers. Chiefly missing from the previous two-disc Special Edition DVD from 2008 is the feature-length Scorsese on Scorsese career profile from Turner Classic Movies. There never was cast or filmmakers commentary back then and that remains the case on the 4K UHD. Scorsese’s introductions of nine deleted scenes from The Departed are intact.

Buyers will have to settle for two modest featurettes. “Stranger than Fiction: The True Story of Whitey Bulger, Southie, and The Departed” gets dirty as a history lesson into the local underbelly that inspired Monahan’s transplantation from Hong Kong to Boston. It runs 22 minutes and garnered eager cast and filmmaker involvement from the big stars present. One can readily see the roots to the character inspirations for the actors. Lastly, The Departed still celebrates its wise auteur above all others with “Crossing Criminal Cultures.” That mini-doc takes more interviews with the actors to do what all of us do with The Departed: weigh it as a crime saga next to Martin’s other cornerstone classics in the same genre. The comparisons are as easy to make as this move is to revisit.

Written by Don Shanahan

DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing here on Film Obsessive as the Editor-in-Chief and Content Supervisor for the film department. He also writes for his own website, Every Movie Has a Lesson. Don is one of the hosts of the Cinephile Hissy Fit Podcast on the Ruminations Radio Network and sponsored by Film Obsessive. As a school teacher by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Indie Critics and a voting member of the nationally-recognized Critics Choice Association, Online Film Critics Society, North American Film Critics Association, International Film Society Critics Association, Internet Film Critics Society, Online Film and TV Association, and the Celebrity Movie Awards.

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