The Departed is a film that has as its centerpiece several characters who are straddling the line when it comes to morality.
The film isn’t only interesting in the action that it presents to the audience, but also with the subplot that would leave the likes of Immanuel Kant and Jeremy Bentham in deep contemplation. The actions of the people in the film who are involved in crime include many of the resolute cops, and mob bosses. The film doesn’t necessarily focus on who is in the right and who is wrong, as the film seems to be more concerned with the inevitable climax of the meeting of the good guy, who is with the cops, and the bad guy, who is with the mob. The cop is being hunted by the member of the mob. There isn’t much moral high ground taken in The Departed, as there is the simple struggle for staying alive and the fight between good and evil. The ultimate question asked in the film, which is relayed by mob boss Jack Nicholson, is that when a person is confronted with a loaded gun, who cares who is right and who is wrong?
In the original to the movie, the bad guy finally sees in the end that he has been in the wrong all these years. But The Departed offers no such remorse at the end. This provides ambiguity to the ethics that are posed in the movie. There is no deeper question of why the people in the film are good or bad. It is just taking a look at the conflict that is faced between the mob and the cops. Whether the mob is justified to act in the way it does is left for the viewer to decide. Director Martin Scorsese allows the results of the actions of each party to speak for themselves. This is perhaps most expressed through the struggle of Leonardo DiCaprio’s character who is challenged with his undercover cop duty, as a mole in the mob. He is battling with the fact that he is confronted with the evil of the mob members on a daily basis, causing him to need counseling, (Kanchibhotia).
The struggle that DiCaprio’s character is facing is at the center of the film. He is constantly surrounded by the behaviors of the mob that he is starting to think like them. This struggle between what is right and what is wrong is something that is tearing DiCaprio’s character apart. He is struggling to resist the transformation of becoming like the mobsters that he is with on a daily basis. For example, he is put into a moral crises when he has to witness one of the mob members kill a man. DiCaprio’s character is unable to make an arrest or to do anything to help the man, because he is undercover, (Pigeon, 2007).
Also central to the movie, are the challenges faced by each character in making decisions that are against their character. Nearly all the characters make moral compromises and it leaves the viewer seeing that the world isn’t as black and white as people would like to believe. There isn’t a lot separating the behaviors of the police and of gangsters. This film takes a close look at the choices each of the characters makes, and the impulses that have them make those choices. It shows that people are really a product of what they grew up in and it is challenging for anyone to break through those barriers to make their own moral decisions. A person’s values are often dictating by forces outside of their power.
Ultimately, the film shows that corruption can rule all, and both good and evil are subject to corruption in this thin line between good and bad. People will do what they need to in order to survive, and they are often willing to throw out what they truly believe in for the sake of survival. The line between good and evil is one that has to be straddled with the consideration of preserving oneself. The film depicts that the line is thinned further when people become immersed in a culture that desensitises them to behaviors that are unethical in nature.