It took me a while, but I finally managed to go see this film last night, and now I want to go again, because it really is fantastic. Bloody, violent, full of no-good nastiness and general scumbaggery. But wonderful to watch all the same.
The film begins “some years ago” where we see a young Colin Sullivan being approached by local bad-guy-boss Costello and groomed to join the police force and become a mole. Billy Costigan also joins the police force, but he is sent out as an undercover cop to infiltrate Costello’s gang. Sullivan meanwhile has succeeded in rising through the force and is now doing the exact opposite, infiltrating the police for Costello’s benefit.
Thematically the film is mainly concerned with betrayal and family and loyalty. Both DiCaprio and Damon are playing the character of a rat, but in very different ways, and I’d have to say that DiCaprio plays it better. Or maybe just got the better role. Damon is great as the cocky, upwardly mobile cop, but it is DiCaprio’s character who has more emotion and development to explore.
All the acting is top-notch, though on occasion I thought Nicholson went a little over the top. It could be argued that his character is over the top, so we’ll let it go. It is two and half hours of a great film, you won’t notice the time passing at all.