Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Alternate Best Actor 2006: Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon in The Departed

Leonardo DiCaprio did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a Golden Globe, Sag and BAFTA, for portraying William "Billy" Costigan, Jr. in The Departed.

This is actually one lack of an Oscar nomination that is extremely easy to figure out since DiCaprio was nominated for his performance in Blood Diamond. It is rather odd to note, something I don't know if that many people remember, is that DiCaprio was actually double nominated at Sag. The problem was he was not double nominated in lead, but actually received a nomination in the supporting category which is about as ridiculous a case of category fraud as one can imagine.

Anyway DiCaprio takes on the role of the cop who goes undercover as a criminal that was originated by Tony Leung in Infernal Affairs. Of course one of the reasons The Departed works as a remake is it smartly takes many different approaches around the same plot. One of these is in the character of the cop which is written and played very differently by DiCaprio than it was by Leung. Leung's take on the character was more based around the exasperation of being an undercover cop, as he's already been one for 10 years by the time the plot begins. The Departed differs greatly here by starting at the beginning of his time on his assignment and going from there. DiCaprio's work therefore is one quite the different wavelength as we start with him in the film as he basically is told by his superiors that he'll never make it far in the police department with his background so he might as well settle for being an undercover cop.

DiCaprio is quite good in his earliest scenes in establishing Billy Costigan's always troubled personal background before he even gets into the deeper trouble of playing the criminal. DiCaprio carries himself with a quiet intensity to start reflecting the difficulty in Billy's life even before he was a cop. DiCaprio importantly in this scenes creates an emotional honesty about Billy before he must go into a world of constantly duplicity. Unlike his co-star I am about to get to, DiCaprio portrays Billy as someone frankly we as the audience can trust. Although obviously he will be hiding a lot as the film progresses, DiCaprio does not really hide Billy from us. He plays him as a genuine man whom is easy to sympathy from the scene where Billy is given the blunt news by his superiors. DiCaprio effectively makes the hero to go into the dark world of crime, which cannot be said about someone else who plays the criminal pretending to be the cop.

Matt Damon did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Staff Sgt. Colin Sullivan in The Departed.

Matt Damon's performance also greatly differs from his Hong Kong counterpoint, although in this case that is not necessarily a good thing. Andy Lau played his corrupt cop working for the crime boss as confidant and cocky but quite charming. Damon on the other hand plays him as confidant and cocky but not at all charming. Well that's not exactly quite right because I suppose Damon plays him as a guy who thinks he's quite charming but the problem is he really is not. It's hard to tell whether or not Damon made this an intentional part of the character. The only thing is he's just extremely unlikable here as Damon plays him as an especially contemptible sort. Damon pushes on the charm offensive like Sullivan really is always trying extra hard to be this flamboyant guy everyone loves, but there's just something so obviously despicable in his excrement eating grin.

Damon and the writing seem to purposefully paint Sullivan as a despicable villain who is there just to be hated. Damon seems to try every attempt to distance us from his own personal story, and simply look at him as the rat Sullivan is. There is a persuasive smugness in his depiction of Sullivan that makes you just simply want to see something bad happen to him sooner oppose to later. The thing is though Damon does not even quite make Sullivan the type of villain you love to hate, because he's just so cool while being just so evil at the same time. At the same time Damon also makes Sullivan seem as pathetic as he can as well as he seems to imply that's he's a spoiled brat more than anything. This is seen from his just look of pouting when clearly being impudent, or possibly even worse when he basically throws a hissy fit at Mark Wahlberg's Dignam when he won't give Sullivan what he needs to be able to find DiCaprio's character within the criminal organization.

Speaking of which DiCaprio makes use of the scenes, not in affairs, as Billy attempts to join Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson)'s criminal organization by connecting with his old neighborhood. DiCaprio is effective in these scenes by performing a fairly subtle act that he puts on as Billy becomes the criminal. DiCaprio does not accentuate it too much which is important since it should be believable, but he does carefully differentiate Billy's act from who Billy truly is. In the act DiCaprio is effective in creating the thug personality for Billy. That being the guy who stays pretty reserved most of the time, but is quick to fits of anger whenever he is even slightly insulted. DiCaprio is good in showing kinda the act as he has the moment where he purposefully kinda show Billy creating point of having a short fuse while technically not really being the thug that would connect with. DiCaprio is great at kinda making Billy seem like the not especially smart thug, while still conveying the true intelligence of Billy underneath.

DiCaprio's best moments though are portraying the absolute truth about Billy as he must do his job which is basically going on routine beatings and sometimes killings with Frank's thugs, while avoiding being found out which would cause his death immediately. DiCaprio portrays the growing stress of his predicament throughout the film incredibly well. Some of DiCaprio's best moments are his reactions as he sees the heinous acts depicted by Frank and the others. Honestly I would say DiCaprio even does his very best to make Jack Nicholson's over the top performance work by giving realistic reactions to his insanity. I won't say DiCaprio is able to completely make up for what Nicholson does, because Nicholson goes a bit too far with some of the mannerisms he throws in, but DiCaprio steals the scene with his down to earth performance. DiCaprio's fear and intensity in fact is worth of something far more intimidating than some random weird looks, and making rat faces that Nicholson does in the interrogation scene.

Now Damon is also decent enough in playing against Nicholson as well, and although I might sound otherwise, I don't think Damon's performance is bad. He is good at being a guy you want to see some very bad things happen to, but in this vein his performance does not exactly go anywhere either. It seems like the film is attempting to show that perhaps Sullivan does have some regrets about his corruption, as well as feels like he is becoming isolated, the problem is Damon does not follow suit at all. Damon just seems content in being the jerk, and there is never a hint of regret in his portrayal, which was the most remarkable quality in Andy Lau's version of the character. Of course it did not need to be exactly regret, it could have been something even less which would just be in creating a sense of Sullivan becoming alienated from all others, but Damon does not even try to convey this. He's content with just being sleazy scum which he's not ineffective at to be sure, but the role does have deal of potential he never bothers to try and find.

DiCaprio though gives a powerful portrayal of simply the weight of having such pressure on the man for so long. DiCaprio is fantastic in internalizing the devastation in Billy as even greater tragedy befalls. DiCaprio is creates such a poignant depiction of a hero. DiCaprio expresses the emotional turmoil wonderfully and even does manage to bring a bit of charm to the role. He does not overplay it, that would be all wrong for Billy, but he just adds another reason to sympathize with Billy's plight throughout the story. DiCaprio earns the tragic nature of the character, and makes his exit devastating as it should be. Now Damon, unlike Lau in the original, is not standing up in his final scene so to speak. The only thing that can really be said when Damon makes his exit is a loud "FINALLY" due to just how unlikable he makes Sullivan. The ending is satisfying because Sullivan simply gets his comeuppance, but perhaps there could have been more complex emotions elicited from that scene if Damon had bothered to bring more complexity to the role. Damon never matches DiCaprio, and unlike the first film where you could become invested in both characters this is far more black white. The film could have hit even greater heights if both characters where as compelling as DiCaprio's Billy Costigan, but that never happens as DiCaprio gives a great performance while Damon does not, although he technically does not give a bad one either.
(For Damon)
(For DiCaprio)


Matt Mustin said...

I mostly agree with this. DiCaprio is great, and I think I liked Damon a *bit* more than you, but he is completely overshadowed. Now, having said that, I completely disagree with you about Nicholson. I think his over-the-top performance works perfectly for the character.

Michael Patison said...

I really agree with Matt here. I'd give DiCaprio a 5, too, but Damon gets a weak 4 from me. I also like Nicholson far more (he's still only a 3 or a 3.5 for me and I prefer both Sheen and Wahlberg to him) but I can't help but think his over-the-top approach fit the character well. I've tried watching the movie with the primary objective of finding the faults you find in his performance and have been unsuccessful.

Matt Mustin said...

I would actually give Nicholson a 5 and he's my win for Supporting Actor. I REGRET NOTHING!

Kevin said...

Ratings and thoughts on the rest of the cast

Also, I would only give Nicholson a 2.5, he is certainly effective at times, but I thought he was just way too OTT

Michael McCarthy said...

I go back and forth with Jack in this. Also my predictions for Section 2:

1. Christian Bale
2. Cillian Murphy
3. Ulrich Muhe
4. Keanu Reeves
5. Matt Damon

Anonymous said...

I love DiCaprio in this, and he would be a very strong 5 and his best performance for me. I liked Damon, I thought he was very good and probably a 4 for me, even though I agree that the performance should have been much more compelling.

RatedRStar said...

I think this performance pretty much sums up how limited Matt Damon is as an actor, I mean Andy Lau is the George Clooney of Hong Kong, so there is no excuse that Damon couldnt have been better than Lau, and I agree with you Louis on Jack Nicholson, I urge to watch Eric Tsang and watch how it was done properly, with a vicious performance and a love to hate quality that made Tsang a intimidating villain

Matt Damon is simply out of his depth here, he isnt a great actor and never will be and this was his big chance to prove himself and he didnt.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Basically the ratings I'd give them, but I'm surprised you didn't mention DiCaprio's scene in the therapist's office.

Anonymous said...

The Hollywood Foreign Press has spoken. Love the inclusion of Gyllenhaal (although I don't think he will be nominated to the Oscars, unfortunately). I think their nominees for Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress will be the same at the Oscars. Seems like Aniston will be the fifth nominees for Best Actress at the Oscar, even if I am hoping for a Cotillard's upset (or a Woodley's but that's not happening). I'm quite shocked that Two Days, One Night has been snubbed for Best Foreign Movie.

Anonymous said...

Anyway, Aniston looks good from the trailer of Cake. I'm pretty interested to see her performance.

luke higham said...

Game of Thrones, finally gets some recognition from HFPA, I'm happy about Gyllenhaal, Fiennes and Phoenix as well.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

The lack of anything Begin Again at the Globes depressed the shit out of me.

RatedRStar said...

I see Jake being the Daniel Bruhl of this year, manages to sneak into every main awards show, then loses out come oscar time.

luke higham said...

Louis: If you finish 2006 about a week or two before the nominations are announced, can you finish off '37, '57 & '65 between then and after you finish '14.

Kevin said...

@RatedRStar: I think that is gonna happen too, which will really really suck as Jake's performance was amazing. Coupled with his work in Prisoners last year and Enemy from earlier this year, I will really love for him to get Oscar recognition.

Anonymous said...

@kook160: I think that Begin Again should have been nominated for Best Comedy Picture, Best Actress in a Comedy and Best Song definitely.
Anyway, question for everybody, who do you think will get the final slot for Best Actress? Jennifer Aniston, Hilary Swank, Marion Cotillard, Shailene Woodley, Emily Blunt? And who would you like to? I hope Cotillard does!

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

My heart says Cotillard but my mind thinks Aniston. Blunt and Woodley have little to no chance of being nominated; Swank has almost zero chance.

luke higham said...

Should: Cotillard
Will: Aniston

Louis Morgan said...


Nicholson - 2.5(I won't say he's entirely ineffective as Nicholson usually brings something, and, unlike say De Niro, later career Nicholson's problem has been more of overindulgence rather than a seeming disinterest. Yes Costello should be unpredictable and I think Nicholson could have done that. The problem for me though is it feels like obvious him just having fun in the role rather than it being true to the character. This is not every second of the performance mind you, but there are some very egregious examples of it)

Sheen - 4(Sheen does some strong work in offering just some gentle warmth in the film that needs it a great deal. He plays rather well off Wahlberg to as being kinda that straight man to his always abrasive cop routine. Sheen is the makes Queenan the comforting factor he should be and giving his exit the impact it needs)

Farmiga - 2(I found her work very bland and mannered. Everything she does seems telegraphed in the wrong way, and I did not think she created anything special with either Damon or DiCaprio. In fact I say both overshadowed in the scenes they shared together especially DiCaprio)

Winstone - 3.5(Winstone I find is the one who creates the actual menace for Nicholson. I would have preferred that he take the Costello actually since he brings that cold intimidation with so much ease. I wish he had gotten a little more to do)

Baldwin - 4(Baldwin's role is not much more than wiping out some biting one liners, and the fact that it was meant for Mel Gibson is not at all surprising. Baldwin absolutely delivers in the role hitting his mark every time)

Dale - 2.5(He is actually considerably better than his Infernal Affairs counterpoint who is such a non-entity that when his treacherous nature is revealed you only think who was that guy anyways? Dale though makes enough of an impact to be remembered, even if he does not do much past that)

Anderson - 2.5(He's fine but just does not get enough to do)

Rolston - 3(He's actually really good in his final scene but it seems like he and DiCaprio should have shared scenes before that. It leaves an odd question mark above his character that probably should not be there, but wasn't in the original)

O'Hara - 3(He's usually good an he's quite enjoyable while being intimidating enough)

RatedRStar: Gyllenhaal seems to have the passion behind him something that just kept waning for Bruhl.

I do think it will be close as we have to see who Spall will knock out at the BAFTAs, and even then it will not be entirely clear.

Anonymous: At this time it seems like Aniston. Cotillard seems like she could get in at BAFTA though so it might be close.

In regards to Supporting Actor well it's BAFTA's move now, it will be very strange if they give the exact five as well.

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

Are your thoughts/rating on Wahlberg the same after re-watch.

Anonymous said...

Louos have you seen Babel? If so, what are your ratings and thoughts on Adriana Barraza and Rinko Kikuchi? Also, I'd be interested in your thoughts and rating on Mia Kirshner in The Black Dahlia, who I loved despite the bad movie.

Anonymous said...

Anyway I think that Adams might get in the fifth spot. I'm not sure but she could.

RatedRStar said...

I think Aniston or possibly Adams as well, I think there seems to be a wild amount of support for Aniston and Adams has that overdue card playing, and the fact that Cotilard did not get recognised for either Sag or Globes which she did for Rust and Bone and still missed out.

As for supporting actor, If Unbroken had got positive reviews than it might have been more competitive, Waltz and Wilkinson seem like the only 2 that could sneak in come oscar time, most likely at Robert Duvalls expense.

Well some people might think that due to Sag and Globes that the oscar race will be very predictible, I disagree because last year everyone thought Tom Hanks would get regonised but he didn't, there will be a surprise or 2 come oscar time definately.

luke higham said...

RatedRStar: Your thoughts on Man City reaching the last 16.

mcofra7 said...

Louis: Which performance do you prefer: DiCaprio in this or in the Wolf of Wall Street?

John Smith said...

Good question Mcofra

By the way lads, any toughts on the globes?

luke higham said...

John Smith: As I said earlier, I'm happy about Jake, Ralph and Joaquin, pleased for Game of Thrones, as well as The Missing, which I'm loving by the way. At this point, I'm going to say that Keaton will win Best Actor, J.K. Simmons for Supporting and Boyhood for Best Picture at the Oscars.

John Smith said...

I have not seen any of those movies... I live in Sweden and its hard to get them.

Sorry about jumping right in withou reading the other coment, was to excited i guess.

RatedRStar said...

@Luke: When Mondays draw happens ill let you know.

@John Smith: Well if you havent seen the movies than you very lucky you found the greatest oscar blog ever filled with the most angry and opinionated people ever, welcome =D.

luke higham said...

RatedRStar: No, It's the Greatest/Most wholly satisfying blog ever.

Louis Morgan said...

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar: I feel about the same towards Wahlberg.


Barraza - 4.5(All the performances in Babel are pretty to the point so to speak, as the film depicts characters whose emotions are running high. In terms of the film's approach Barraza is easily the best. She exudes a natural warmth in his performance making it easy to empathize with her. This also allows when unpleasantness befalls her character that it is properly moving, and her performance as she breaks down is heartbreaking to be sure.)

Kikuchi - 3(Out of the vignettes Kikuchi's just never quite resonated with me all that much. I never thought she was bad in the role, but there just was something missing for me. I never cared about her character that much despite the nature of the role)

Kirshner - 5(This might be a year where the Best and Worst Supporting Actress may have come from the same film. The Black Dahlia is not a good film, despite the material having a great deal of promise, but I do think Kirshner's work is undeniably good. Whenever the film shows one of the screen tests you'd think the film had become a masterpiece suddenly. Kirshner's performance is brilliant as she infuses such emotional desperation while putting on the act of being a "star". It's amazing as Kirshner is does the bad acting of her character, while the same time in reflecting the devastation in her character's eyes. Her work is truly haunting and I only wish she had played the lookalike as well. Especially because Hillary Swank not only looks nothing like Kirshner but she also is awful in the role)


Wolf although it's close.

luke higham said...

Louis: When is the review.

John Smith said...

That I am (: