One of my favourite movies of the last decade is Martin Scorsese’s The Departed. The Departed is a remake of the Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs. For the last, however long, I’ve been hearing nothing other than the usual “oh the original is better” kind of talk from everyone.
This past weekend I finally sat down to watch Infernal Affairs and all I can honestly say is that Scorsese did it better. In The Departed Scorsese took the time to actually set up these characters for us by showing us how they both ended up on the other side of the gun and for what reasons over a period of near forty-five minutes. In Infernal Affairs Chen (the role of Billy Costigan in The Departed) is undercover in a matter of less than ten minutes with a series of flashbacks, voice over and a series of quick cuts and shoddily explained back-story. The film’s setup is completely rushed and feels more and more as you go along like the entire film was made solely so that they could get to the final plot twist or I don’t know what. The film’s entire meaning was lost to me while I saw a ridiculously under-produced version of the finished product.
I’ve yet to delve into the sequels – which I intend to do in coming weeks – but somehow I feel like Hong Kong’s style of filmmaking got in the way of the movie being good. There’re things in this movie that I notice in other Hong Kong films that I feel just didn’t work in this story. One of those things is that when every so often the film wants to transition from one scene to the next the scene will end on a frame and it will linger there and a half minute later dissolves into the next scene. It’s just poor filmmaking. I know when I sit down to watch a 90s John Woo film to expect these kinds of things, but with a film as revered as this I’m disappointed.
Why The Departed works and this doesn’t has to do with the fact that The Departed takes its time and every scene which people probably thought “that’s a really cool thing for the character to do” Scorsese allowed the scene to actually fit into a fluid plot rather than just stick out and seem like we’re watching a sketch comedy short where we have to assume so much in order to get the eventual pay off.
Part of me is just mad at myself. As much as I complain about Infernal Affairs I wonder how my feelings would be different if I had actually seen it before I had seen The Departed. While I honestly feel that the remake is far superior to the original I have no way of telling if my reaction to the original would’ve been this negative at the time. With that said, that’s what I think and that’s that.
What do you think of The Departed vs. Infernal Affairs Discussion?