Recently, I saw How to Lose Friends and Alienate People starring Simon Pegg and Kirsten Dunst. I enjoyed it. I like Simon Pegg, and you can really see his character change in this movie. And that’s what we want in our movies, right? We want to see a different person at the end. Movie number six provides us with another example of characters changing, but this movie takes that in the opposite direction. This movie is different from the Simon Pegg film, but it could also fit under the title How to Lose Friends and Alienate People. The title they chose, however, works much better as the theme is quite a bit darker. Movie number six is:
(no cool transition this time)
It may be because I procrastinated this review, and it may be because none of the previous movies were so complicated, but this review was hard to write. Probably both. I also read the Ebert review before I started on this one (bad idea). My perception is now warped. Everything I tried to write sounded like a synopsis. Synopses are for the backs of books you’re not going to read, and they ruin it for me all the time. One time, I read a synopsis on the back of a Star Wars book, and it said someone had died. I was furious. I hadn’t even read the sixteen or so books previous. But I digress. Here’s my NonEbert, Non-synopsis, hopefully not too philosophically long-winded review of one of the best movies of the last decade.
First off, the pacing of the film is nonstop. The feature runs 151 minutes, but there is no down time for you to wonder where it is going. You start with your characters William Costigan (Leo DiCaprio) and Collin Sullivan (Matt Damon) going through police academy. You already know that Sullivan has a relationship with the crime boss Francis Costello (Jack Nicholson), but then Costigan meets up with Cpt. Queenan (Martin Sheen) and Det. SSgt. Dignam (Mark Whalberg) and becomes an undercover cop. All of this happens, and THEN you see the title of the film. Then the movies rolls and it doesn’t stop. Every scene has something important. And the actual story takes place over a span of months, maybe even a year, but it doesn’t feel that way.
Leonardo DiCaprio is the main character. If you didn’t know that, I just ruined it for you. Also, he dies in Titanic. I may have mentioned it before, but I did not have him on my list of great actors until this movie. On a larger scale, I think he has really improved throughout his movies. In The Departed specifically, he skillfully depicts a man who is torn apart by being two people at once. I can only imagine what it must really be like for those kinds of people. Plenty can act like someone else, but what happens if you blow your cover and people find out you’re a rat? In the business that Costigan is in, they kill you. The duality is emphasized by Costigan’s two cell phones. One he uses to call Queenan. One he uses to call Mikey . . . because there is no Mikey. Basically he only has two people to call, and one of them does not exist.
Collin Sullivan is the counterpart to William Costigan. Instead of being a cop and going undercover, he is friends with crime and goes undercover as a cop. While Costigan is alienated by his secret, Sullivan chooses to be alone to get ahead and is boastful of that fact. However, his choice causes him similar emotional distress. Things get interesting when the two men are given the task of finding each other, since both sides are aware that information is leaking. No one knows who the informants is, and when the two men eventually meet, it is great scene. It’s better than that time when John Travolta/Nicolas Cage shot himself in the mirror, or something. Actually, it’s exactly like that only not. It’s similar in a lot of ways, and all those ways are different.
So why see this movie? The cast? The pacing? The director? Scorsese has made some classic films. One of which was listed as the best film of the 1980’s. This is on my list of the best from the ’00’s. I mean it got best picture. What more do you want? The copious amounts of F-bombs? The Dropkick Murphys? The Catholic references? This is clearly an epic of Irish proportions (it takes place in Boston for crying out loud). Several of the cast grew up in that area, but you would think that they all came from the Southy Projects judging by the accents and dialect. I like the color commentary that Det. Dignam gives during Costigan’s interview. It’s vulgar, obviously, but to me that makes it authentic. And no, not everybody talks like that, but you know he does.
Oh yeah, there’s also Alec Baldwin. He’s got a pretty small role, but it’s still great. He’s sort of this comic relief, macho guy. He puts his face in a bowl of ice water in one scene. I don’t know if that’s a thing or what it’s for. He also offers a cigarette to Sullivan at a stakeout, and then retracts his offer and tells him to go screw himself all in the same sentence. That’s talent.