Welcome to the latest edition of 24 Frames. Andrew Jamieson will be guiding you through the exciting, confusing and often brilliant world of 'film'. Expect news, trailers and plenty of opinion.


The 'Departed' Edition

A few weeks ago Paramount Pictures confirmed that The Wolf of Wall Street will be released in the United States on Christmas day and in the United Kingdom on 17th January 2014 after much editorial wrangling. The movie marks the fifth collaboration between star Leonardo DiCaprio and the esteemed director Martin Scorsese. The two have previously worked together on Gangs of New York (2002), The Aviator (2004), The Departed (2006) and the hauntingly brilliant Shutter Island (2010).

While I have adored each one of the collaborations between the pair, when I saw the machismo and capitalist lust at the core of the first trailer for The Wolf of Wall Street I found myself thinking about their 2006 collaboration The Departed. It features two diametrically opposed characters portrayed by Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio. I thought of the 2006 movie in particular as it offers a tellingly sensitive approach to the macho displays of obsessive capitalism and selfishness at play from in the first trailer and promotional materials for The Wolf of Wall Street .

In The Departed Leonardo DiCaprio plays Billy Costigan, a Bostonian caught between two families of differing social status and class. Costigan wants to join the State Police, but is pushed into undercover work when (in a hilarious scene featuring Mark Wahlberg and Martin Sheen) his superiors want to put Costigan's fractured social persona to good use as an undercover police officer. Matt Damon plays Colin Sullivan, a man recruited by the Irish gangster Frank Costello (played with scenery chomping gusto by Jack Nicholson). Unlike Costigan, Sullivan races to the top as a cop under the watchful eye of the criminal who knew him as a child.

What stands out about these two characters to me is the fact that Costigan is a character who, despite all of the violence around and by him, he embodies a sense of introspection that is framed around an organic relativity or providence to females and resultantly to the preconceived ideal of his 'feminine side'. Sullivan meanwhile is the polar opposite to this Costigan as his emotional attachment to his lover is predicated at first on sexual attraction rather than intimacy. Once the emotional connection arrives it is something he is unable to reconcile with the constructs of the superficial restrictions of his lies. While both men work undercover and the nature of their job is to deceive, Sullivan's own deceptions hinder him and ultimately lead to the deaths of both men, as he avoids his own personal truth.

In the opening scenes of the movie Sullivan is shown taking part in overtly macho sporting activities. After a football match he describes the opposition as "Fuckin homos" - this is a telling reference point for his character. Once he has been inducted into the police corps he walks out of the office after his first official meeting with his superiors, as he does he is given a flirty and seductive look from the secretary on the desk. Costigan is waiting outside the office and he watches nonchalantly as this exchange takes place, in a subtle way Costigan is not shown to admire this type of exchange between a man and a woman. Sullivan then admires the behind of 'Darlene', one of his female colleagues. It is of no coincidence that shortly after this scene we see Costigan at his dying mother's bedside. He holds her hand as she passes. Later on in the movie we see DiCaprio's character weeping as he looks down at his mother's picture. This connection is paramount as it points toward Costigan's yearning for his maternal parent, and the sensitivity of the traditional gender roles we see portrayed in many cinematic interpretations of heterosexual relationships, primarily love and emotional intimacy.

  • Martin Scorsese directs Vera Farmiga and Leonardo DiCaprio in The Departed

This ideal takes on a deeper thematic level when Sullivan is out on a date with Dr Madolyn Madden (played by the brilliant Vera Farmiga). On their date they consume beautiful dishes in an expensive restaurant as they joke and laugh - this flirting and surface attraction will of course lead to their sexual coupling. Juxtaposed in the middle of this scene we then see Costigan in the emergency room. A female doctor is looking after him and he looks at her with admiration and yearning before turning away from her, a slight smile on his face. There is no dialogue in this scene and despite all of the violence we have witnessed Costigan being a party to, we see his vulnerability in a single frame. Comparatively Sullivan's date is full of humour, sexual confidence and bombast.

As the movie continues we see the anger at play in Costigan's psyche, eventually both men have an intimate relationship with Madolyn, however when she and Costigan make love for the first time it is a softly played scene as a beautiful live version of the Pink Floyd song: 'Comfortably Numb' plays out in the background. The script makes explicit reference to Costigan's character here as Madolyn says to him: "Your vulnerability is really freaking me out right now." Costigan is a sensitive man, to me it is ironic that once he has experienced the sensual and emotional fulfilment of Madolyn's attention he eventually confronts his own truth and seeks to expose the lies and criminality of Sullivan's undercover activity. In contrast Sullivan asks Madolyn to start again with him, as he attempts to subvert the truth and continue on with his relationship. While both men perish over the course of the movie we are left with the thought that Madolyn's baby is actually Sullivan's, by nature the baby is symbolic of physical vulnerability and an interesting coupling to its supposed father's own emotional fragility.

In conclusion, while The Wolf of Wall Street will be outrageously funny, and will no doubt be another Scorsese/DiCaprio treat, it is The Departed that offers Scorsese's most tellingly beautiful portrayal of the paradox between machismo and sensitivity embodied by his two male characters. Not many actors can portray that well and it is testament to Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, and of course Vera Farmiga that they illustrate it so well, by invoking traditional gender stereotypes this movie actually subverts them and gives us something that I had never seen in a Martin Scorsese picture.