Scorsese, supposedly a great director who makes great movies, hasn't made an great movie since Goodfellas. There, someone finally said it.
You may have previously read my review of The Aviator, which was a terrible movie that got nominated for an Oscar (never forget the Oscar rules: making a movie about Hollywood itself automatically gets you nominated). Casino was forgettable. I didn't see "Bringing out the Dead" or "Gangs of New York." Those had 6.6 and 7.2 ratings respectively on IMDB, where every Scorsese, De Niro, Pachino, etc., movie is overrated.
Scorsese's problem is that he tries to force a movie, rather than show us, via the film medium, a story. The camera is there to do one thing: record the story. Sure, there are symbolic things you can do with the camera, but the goal is not to overmake a movie for art's sake. That's what film school projects are for. In regular movies, camera tricks should only be used when they help tell us something, not to force them for your "signature".
Prime example of forcing shots is Brian DePalma. ONCE in his career, the top-down shot worked really well. It was in The Untouchables, after Capone had beat the guy with the baseball bat.
Let me give you an example of a Scorsese forced scene -- actually in Goodfellas. Remember the sweeping cameras over dead people put to Clapton music? Well, thanks to Youtube, here it is for you to remember. That's an example of forcing a shot. The scene is memorable, sure, but it plays like something out of a NYU film student's mob movie. Sweeping camera moves, just like top down cameras, are almost never necessary to tell the story. They're put in there to exaggerate the drama. But if the scene is that really that dramatic, you don't need it. In DePalma's favor, at least top down cameras have the symbolism of someone rising to heaven. Sweeping moves don't mean much beyond "I'm a pretentious jackass".
Getting to The Departed. Fortunately, this is one movie that Scorsese decided not to overmake too much. He mostly let the story tell itself, and actually, it is a great story. The movie keeps you pulled in thoughout. I honestly didn't think the acting was that great. I'm shocked Marky Mark was able to get an Oscar nomaination for his performance. All he did was swear up a storm. His dialogue and delivery was entertaining, but unnecessary for the story and certainly not Oscar-caliber.
Of course, Scorsese uses every chance possible to work 60s music into his movies, and The Departed is no exception. It starts off with a 60s scene of a younger Jack Nicholson and a kid version of Matt Damon, then leads into "Gimme Shelter". Scorsese has used this song in his films now three times. I didn't know that until I read it on Wikipedia, so are they shitting me? Can this guy become a cliche of himself any more than he has?
The Departed is, no surprise, too long. Maybe half an hour. Overall, for a long movie this one will keep your interest. I found the ending very unsatisfying -- and this is where Scorsese tries to work in his needless camera tricks -- but it is a decent film. Not Oscar-winner worthy. I'm not sure why they insist on giving those out every year. Instead, they should give it out every 5 years. That's about how often Hollywood makes a truly worthy film.
Rating: Good/Good. Worth a rental. HD-optional.