The Departed (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

The Departed was a surprise gift to film lovers in 2006. Martin Scorsese mixed one part Infernal Affairs remake and one part loosely true story of The Winter Hill Gang of Boston, the many twists and turns of the film took many of us by surprise. As Goodfellas and Casino did before them, this crime caper mixes humor, thrills, double crosses, and intensely good performances to make the perfect cocktail of cinematic comfort.  Now, 18 years later, we get a 4K UHD Blu-ray to savor.  Read on below more on the film and its newly remastered technical merits below and click to cover art below (both Amazon links) to get either the standard 4K edition or the steelbook edition!


Martin Scorsese directs an all-star cast in this action-packed thriller set in Boston, where a long-simmering hostility between the police department and an Irish American gang led by Frank Costello is primed to explode.  The fuse is lit when a gangster is chosen to infiltrate the police force – a young cop goes undercover within the gang.  Now, when the two moles uncover each other’s identity, the battle begins.

So first, it’s best to lay down some characters – There are many moving pieces as far as characters in the film and to know their roles distinguishes where they may lie within the storyline. So, there’s Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson), the ruthless mob boss of Boston. Next, we have Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon), a new detective who meets and becomes close to Frank as a child.  Knowing what we know, it’s surprising to have Sullivan grow up to be a detective, but of course, the little dark secrets are the ones that reveal themselves in the light. Cliché, I know, but it’s the truth.

We also have Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio), a young officer fresh out of training, who is tasked to go undercover to infiltrate Costello’s outfit by Staff Sergeant Dignam (Mark Wahlberg), Captain Queenan (Martin Sheen), and Captain Ellerby (Alec Baldwin). This includes jail time for Costigan, who is game for the task to not only get the job done but to prove himself. Meanwhile, Sullivan keeps having secretive phone calls, all while trying to woo Dr. Madolyn Madden (Vera Farmiga), a police therapist.  These are the main players in the film, and the ones we become most invested in throughout the story.

What I’ve described barely scratches the surface of course.  Costigan begins to find himself immersed in his assignment but is of course torn on which side he really believes is benefitting him.  Sullivan, almost too cocky for his own good, is less conflicted and more self-assured. Then we have Frank Costello… How criminal is he? Or is he something untouchable? We don’t know until nearly the end of the film and even watching the film multiple times makes the reveal quite surprising.

It’s no surprise that my summary only gives way to my glowing regard for The Departed. The film is multi-layered, fast-paced, shocking, funny, engrossing, and wonderful.  Martin Scorsese at this time really had nothing to prove.  He didn’t receive the awards recognition he deserved, but he had made undeniable masterpieces for decades at that time.  He had not just Mean Streets and Taxi Driver, but also Raging Bull, the most critically acclaimed film of the 1980’s.  There were smaller, less successful films like The King of Comedy or After Hours, and The Last Temptation of Christ.  There were also larger disasters like New York, New York, that while not being as heralded still had moments or full films worth of exceptional work within them.  The 90’s gave Scorsese another hit period with crime films like Goodfellas and Casino and unexpected gems like The Age of Innocence or Kundun. Gangs of New York began the 21st century era for Scorsese and it too was largely successful critically and commercially.

We knew though that Scorsese couldn’t stay away from the criminal underworld though, and The Departed was that gift in 2006.  What a marvel the film is.  Grimy and full of seediness, shock value and pure entertainment.  When the director finally received his Best Director Oscar, it was just a confirmation that he was overdue to receive the award.  The films that followed The Departed further cemented Scorcese’s status as an icon of cinema, making films that are complicated and emotional, but also so very entertaining and complex.

So, what makes The Departed different than previous Scorsese crime films? There is no voiceover here.  There is no constant soundtrack of amazing needle drops. There are songs of course, and yes, The Rolling Stones are in there, but there is also a film score.  Howard Shore delivers the score as he did with Gangs of New York, The Aviator and later Hugo. It’s a mellow score that somehow manages to captivate and build tension despite its subdued nature.  We also have actual surprising revelations. Who’s playing who? Who’s the mega mole? Are we rooting for the right side? It’s all a great game to be a part of.  The fact that the many potential endings leading up to the actual one keep you guessing is such a treat.  We miss unpredictable natures in films, and this one has that mood going for it the whole time. It’s no surprise that this is a masterpiece, and now it’s coming home in a definitive edition!


Encoding: HEVC/H.265

Resolution: 4K

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1


Layers: BD-100

Clarity/Detail: With a new transfer supervised by Martin Scorsese and Thelma Schoonmaker, we have The Departed in its most definitive presentation.  In a loving grain-field we get a sharp, natural looking new look. Colors are fantastic, detail is first-rate and of course there has been no tinkering, except for some film cleanup of course.

Depth:  Depth of field looks as if the film was shot on film, which it is! Nothing appears outlandish, out of focus or hard to see.  No Vaseline on those lenses!

Color Reproduction: The muted grey and blue color palette that accompanies most of the film looks just as it did when presented theatrically in 2006.  Reds and warmer tones look great too in the rare moments they appear on screen.

Black Levels: Blacks look wonderful, no crush in sight.  There is no loss in detail in the darkest of scenes.

Flesh Tones: Natural looking flesh tones throughout.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean


Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD MA 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

Dynamics: The Departed hits the 4K format with a lossless 5.1 track. Since the Blu-ray came with a lossy mix, while we always wish for more channels or modern mixes expanding the soundstage, this mix is nothing to complain about.  Music and dialogue are the most prominent features of the mix, and that’s what matters most.

Height: N/A

Low-Frequency Extension: Low-end is not a priority here, but with music that’s mostly guitars, and bass saved for some music selections, fight scenes, and some gunfire, this isn’t surprising.

Surround Sound Presentation: Surrounds fill the soundstage with the sounds of Boston, or offices or other indoor spaces.

Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue is what we want to hear most, and yes, it sounds excellent.


Extras for The Departed are from the previous editions except for a new, too short but fantastic new feature called Guilt and Betrayal: Looking Into The Departed with Scorsese speaking about the film, from its development to it’s cast, crew, filmmakers, and it’s influences. Too short, but fantastic!

We also get:

Stranger Than Fiction: The True Story of Whitey Bulger, Southie and The Departed

Crossing Criminal Cultures

Deleted Scenes (9 in total)


The Standard edition of The Departed arrives in a standard slipcover and amaray case, while a darker more attractive steelbook is also available.


The Departed is unmistakably top tier Scorsese and features a huge boost from its massive cast of exceptional actors.  We also have a story that continues to confound and entertain just like it did in 2006. To have the film given such a wonderful transfer and a new special feature is fantastic, and just about all fans of the film can ask for.  Here’s hoping something more luxe doesn’t come any time soon, because I know fans of the film like me will be having to triple or quadruple dip to get it! So very recommended.

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