This has been one of the most difficult films for me to review. It’s not that there’s not much to say, but somehow since it’s one of the few films which I’ve watched numerous times before this point of reviewing it I’m not exactly sure how to express how I truly feel about the movie without actually falling into a fit and just over and over start typing without stopping that this movie is “fucking awesome”.
When I first saw the film in 2006 I loved it, today I think it’s gotten even better. The roles of Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) are great. It’s even better when you come to the obvious realisation that there’s no difference between them. It’s just like the line that Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson) delivers early in the film, “what I’m saying to you is this: when you’re facing a loaded gun, what’s the difference?”, which is completely right. Right and wrong is one of the many things which remain relative. While from an objective point of view one may frown on the sort of business that gangsters do, most of their techniques are very similar (if not the exact same) to that of the rest of “law abiding” society.
The film takes you through a cat and mouse story of these two informants implanting themselves into opposing organizations. Sullivan is a mole for Costello who’s found himself a nice job in the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) of the Masschusetts State Police and Costigan is a mole for Capt. Queenan (Martin Sheen), from the undercover section of SIU, in Costello’s organization. The film allows for the two of them to play a game of who can find who first.
While Costigan and Sullivan play this game, we have a slew of great actors and characters that fill out their lives. Sullivan has Capt. Ellerby (Alec Baldwin) and Madolyn (Vera Farmiga), and Costigan has Staff Sgt. Dignam (Mark Wahlberg), Mr. French (Ray Winstone), Fitzy (David O’Hara) and Sean (Kevin Corrigan) which makes all the little moments work so well. Sullivan has to deceive his boss, Ellerby, that he’s being helpful to the police while at the same time being really helpful to his real boss, Costello, and also trying to find a real life with Madolyn; and when you take a look at Cotigan’s side of the coin he’s trying to deceive Costello while helping his boss, Queenan, and trying to figure out his own life since he’s lost everything worth caring about, after the death of his mother.
The film is a deep character study of these two characters and in every regard it’s great. The film succeeds at making you start to root for the bad guy and the good guy at the very same time while trying to guess what’s coming next and still surprising you when you get there. If for some reason you’ve overlooked this one, it’s time you get it out of the way and fall in love with it just like everyone else.