First Ten Pages: The Departed (2006)

Screenplay by: William Monahan
Breakdown: Andrew L. Schwartz

Martin Scorsese’s, The Departed, is a Crime/Drama film starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson and Mark Wahlberg. It is based on the Hong Kong thriller, Infernal Affairs, and takes place in Boston, MA, in the world of cops, criminals and the respective infiltrations of each organization.

Establishing Tone/Genre —

The tone of The Departed is immediately established through the central antagonist’s environment and motivation. The film rarely breaks from its dark, ominous tone leaving the majority of comedic breaks up to nuances in character and witty dialogue.

In the first page of the script, we open on the South Boston Housing Projects as Frank Costello — an antagonist who is highly entertaining and even likable — monologues about his neighborhood. His monologue is juxtaposed against historical footage of Boston’s tumultuous history, which was only “some years ago,” and concludes with Costello’s declaration, “no one gives it to you. You have to take it.” It is clear the film will be about the crime-ridden world that is a product of men like Costello — criminals.

Introducing the Main Characters —

Colin Sullivan — a central protagonist in the story; he is introduced to us at a young age. Colin is exposed to Costello’s ways when he witnesses a confrontation between Costello and a neighborhood proprietor that ends with Costello calmly demanding the money he is owed. Instead of being afraid, Young Colin is intrigued and eagerly accepts the stolen items and groceries Costello offers to him at the proprietor’s expense. Even more revealing is Young Colin’s intelligence and aptitude for such a young age, which catches the eye of Costello. After being reared by Costello for all of his life, adult Colin is seen becoming an officer in the Massachusetts State Police.

Billy Costigan — although introduced to us at the age he is throughout the entire film, he is another central protagonist that is training to become an officer. Like Colin, Costigan stands out from his peers due to his intelligence and aptitude to succeed, but unlike Colin, he has a bit of a mouth on him. This has always gotten him into trouble, and it will play a major role in his character development as well as the film’s dramatic premise.

Crafting the World of Story —

Largely taking place in the urban, lower-middle class and Catholic neighborhood of South Boston, The Departed focuses on the people from these neighborhoods and the paths they take, more specifically, whether they become cops, criminals, or some other lowly profession. The opening montage depicts what kind of recent history is written into the fabric of Boston, and the rest of the first 10 pages depict the contrasting worlds of cops and criminals and how they all relate to the neighborhood.

Establishing Themes and/or the Message —

The most widely recognized theme in The Departed is identity; how do our environments and other forces affect our identity? Whether it’s the neighborhood, father figures or our professions, something takes a hold and forces its hand in the way we carry ourselves and our action’s.

Setting Up the Dramatic Situation —

It can be argued that the inciting incident of this story begins the moment Costello and Colin have their first interaction. Costello grooms Colin to be a mole in the Massachusetts State Police and everything that happens to him, and in the narrative, from then on is a result of this interaction, thus putting the script on a strong cause and effect trajectory.

Page 10 ends with Colin passing the detectives exam and entering the Special Investigations Unit where he will be part of a task force designed to bring Costello down. It is obvious that he will instead be feeding information to Costello to help him evade capture. Billy then simultaneously goes on to infiltrate Costello’s outfit on behalf of the Special Investigations Unit, and the race to find each respective “rat” ensues.


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