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Scorsese’s ‘The Departed’ gets a decent 4K Ultra HD upgrade; it deserves better


In his last great role, Jack Nicholson plays South Boston crime boss Frank Costello and Leonardio DiCaprio is Billy Costigan, an undercover State Trooper who infiltrates Costello’s gang.

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4K Ultra HD; 2006; R for strong, brutal violence, pervasive language, strong sexuality and drug use; Digital copy via Amazon Video (4K), Apple TV (4K), Fandango (4K), Movies Anywhere (4K), YouTube (4K)

Best extra: “Guilt and Betrayal: Looking into The Departed,” a new interview with director Martin Scorsese

MARTIN SCORSESE was trying to “come to terms” with his screenplay for “Silence,” his 2016 drama about two devout, Portuguese Jesuit priests who journey to 17th century Japan to learn the truth behind the disappearance and apostasy of their mentor, when he realized that “I should do something.”

That he did.

Reading through a stack of scripts, he was taken by William Monahan’s (“Body of Lies”) for “The Departed” for a handful of reasons: its fatalistic humor, the language, the complex story, and its South Boston setting, but mostly he was drawn to “the attitude he captured.”

“[There was] a “truth to the people … an honesty about them and an attitude that was a guide for me,” Scorsese says in the new interview, “Guilt and Betrayal: Looking into The Departed.” There was no “sugarcoating or glamorizing” when the cameras rolled. “I wanted to be truthful to the characters.”

But there was another overarching factor that the late Roger Ebert elaborated on in his four-star review.


“Most of [Scorsese’s] films have been about men trying to realize their inner image of themselves. That’s true of Travis Bickle (“Taxi Driver’) as of Jake LaMotta (“Raging Bull”) … or, for that matter, Jesus Christ (“The Last Temptation of Christ”). ‘The Departed’ is about two men trying to live public lives that are the radical opposites of their inner realities. Their attempts threaten to destroy them, either by implosion or fatal betrayal. The telling of their stories involves a moral labyrinth, is which good and evil wear each other’s masks.”

(1&2) Costello shakes down the owner of a luncheonette (John Rue) and catches the attention of young Colin Sullivan (Conor Donovan). (3) After killing a couple along the harbor, Costello jokes about it. (4) Sullivan (Matt Damon) rises through the ranks of the State Police while acting as Costello’s informant. (5) Desperate to leave his family’s criminal past behind, Costigan also becomes a trooper.

Based on the acclaimed Japanese drama “Infernal Affairs” (2002), “The Departed” finally brought Scorsese his overdue Best Director Oscar – he’d been nominated for “Raging Bull” (1981), “The Last Temptation of Christ” (1989), “GoodFellas” (1991), “Gangs of New York” (2003) and “The Aviator” (2005) – and also won the Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay, and Editing (Thelma Schoonmaker) prizes. Mark Wahlberg was nominated for Supporting Actor.

In his last great role, Jack Nicholson plays crime boss Frank Costello, who grooms young Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) for a life of service. As Sullivan’s star rises in the State Police’s Special Investigation Unit, he acts as Costello’s mole. At the same time, ace police cadet Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio), desperate to leave his family’s criminal past behind, is recruited by Capt. Oliver Queenan (Martin Sheen) and the hard-ass Sgt. Sean Dignam (Wahlberg) to infiltrate Costello’s gang. Their investigations of each other set up a final act that plays true in every way.

The excellent supporting cast includes Ray Winstone as Costello’s right hand Mr. French, Alec Baldwin as Capt. George Ellerby, Vera Farmiga as the psychologist Dr. Madolyn Madden, and Anthony Anderson as Brown, Costigan’s police academy classmate.

(1&2) Sullivan and Costigan are screened by Capt. Oliver Queenan (Martin Sheen) and Sgt. Sean Dignam (Oscar nominee Mark Wahlberg). (3) As part of his cover, Costigan sells drugs with his cousin Sean (Kevin Corrigan). (4&5) Sullivan meets psychologist Dr. Madolyn Madden (Vera Farmiga) and investigates the murder of two mobsters from Providence, R.I.

Since truth figures so prominently in “The Departed” (2.39: 1 aspect ratio), there’s no denying that the 2K master – struck by Warner Bros., upgraded to 2610p/HDR10, and supervised by Schoonmaker – doesn’t always pop. The fine details and textures are endlessly revealing and you can get lost in the bumped-up shadows, but there are times when the sharpness drops off that you might be tempted to double-check that your player is set on 4K. All in all, it’s a solid upgrade, but a film of this stature deserves better.

Surprisingly, “The Departed” was rejected for a complete 4K restoration; instead, Warner opted for the 18-year-old master while giving Steven Soderbergh’s “Ocean Trilogy,” which also was filmed in the Super 35 photochemical format, a total do-over. The results are quite revealing. It isn’t the first time Scorsese has gotten the short end. Paramount released “Shutter Island” (2010), also captured on Super 35, on 4K Ultra HD from the original 2K master.

“The Departed’s” peak brightness only hits 452 nits and averages just over 90s. The video bitrate varies from the low 30 Megabits per second to over 100.

There are no issues with the new 5.1 DTS-HD track. There isn’t a whisper that goes unnoticed and every gun blast ricochets around the room. And, no surprise given it’s a Martin Scorsese picture, the soundtrack is killer. The film opens to The Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” and serves up The Beach Boys (“Sail On, Sailor”), Badfinger (“Baby Blue”), Dropkick Murphys (“I’m Shipping Up to Boston”), LaVern Baker (“Tweedle Dee”), and even Donizetti (“Lucia di Lammermoor”). On top of that, composer Howard Shore’s score features stellar guitarists Sharon Isbin and Marc Ribot.

(1) Queenan receives a message from his mole inside Costello’s gang. (2) Costigan feels the pressure of living a double life. (3) Costello confides with his young understudy. (4) Madden and Sullivan begin a doomed relationship.


The pickings are slim – the Scorsese interview is the only new extra, but he does squeeze in a lot in 15 minutes. His story about the Chicago screening that he and Schoonmaker attended is a lot of fun. He also remembers backing out of the movie when Warner Bros. wanted a different ending. We know how that turned out.

Carried over are the standard-def short features “Stranger Than Fiction: The True Story of Whitey Bulger, Southie and The Departed” (Bulger was the notorious crime boss upon whom Costello was loosely based) and “Crossing Criminal Cultures,” which draws parallels between “The Departed” and Scorsese’s “GoodFellas,” “Casino,” “Mean Streets” and his other mob films. The package also includes deleted scenes with intros by the director.

Craig Shapiro

(1-3) With his right-hand man Mr. French (Ray Winstone) at the ready, Costello keeps the lines of communication with Sullivan open as they try to identify the rat in the gang. (4&5) The violence escalates between the State Police and Costello’s men. (6) Costigan watches as Timothy Delahunt (Mark Rolston), who may have been an undercover cop, takes his last breath.



Ken Roche
Ken Roche
May 11

Nice pics, but this fellow is drawn to nastiness, not much joy watching thugs punish others. Life has it in overload, without filling our 'entertainment' with it.


May 10

It’s a great movie, but not this director’s greatest. The fact the Oceans got the full 4k treatment and not this is puzzling. It’s not worth a rewatch more than every few years, so I will pass…maybe buy on eBay later. I just don’t get it, kind of like movies passing on Dolby Vision (then coming back a year later with a steel that has it.) Spot on review, and as usual the only site with true screenshots!

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