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Films you should watch, the face-off edition: Infernal Affairs V. The Departed

So we finally got the chance to take a quick breather from our LocalHooding and find some time to unwind, and what better way to wind down then over a good film, so after what seemed like a lifetime it came down to two films; Infernal Affairs & The Departed. The latter being a remake of Infernal Affairs by esteemed film maker Martin Scorsese of which he won his first Oscar. So instead of just settling on one we decided to ask someone (unbiased) who had seen both, and after much deliberation and elaboration we not only managed to get an interview with this lovely fellow but he gave us one hell of an analysis in end ending our debate over which film we should see and also you should see. So according to some random drunk backpacker he settled the score and helped us answer the looming question of which one to watch over a glass of vino? INFERNAL AFFAIRS or THE DEPARTED?

Pacing, Editing & Style

Clocking in at a neat 100 minutes INFERNAL AFFAIRS is the perfect concisely timed vehicle for the director Andrew Lau & Allan Mak to tell their story, creating a very intense and suspenseful crime drama with no time for the viewer to catch their breath. The editing is constant and dynamic, with plenty of zoom ins and close-ups. This type of style can get tiresome, but meshed so well with the movie's kinetic pace that in this case, it didn't.

However THE DEPARTED is a mere 151 minutes Scorsese keeps his camera more stable and grounded, giving his film a much slower pace evident in it's run-time. I am not sure if I can definitively give an answer as to who's style I preferred as the quick and intense pace INFERNAL AFFAIRS keeps the viewer suspended in a web of intrigue whereas THE DEPARTED' running a little slower gives the viewer a lot more information to soak in and is constantly feeding the audience answers as to why, when and how, a much more Hollywood approach.

INFERNAL AFFAIRS' story line spanned approximately 10 years chronicling the mob-mole's ascent in the triads played by Hong Kong veteran actor Tony Leung, see this is kind of where it gets a little upsetting, because as much as I adore Scorsese as a director, he does a pretty piss poor job of creating a credible-timeline. It passes too quickly. Possibly because Scorsese felt as though he had so much to fit into this film, like a constant need to articulate and explain every action and every decision leaving nothing left to the imagination, which is something I detest in Hollywood, it's nearly as though if you require the audience to fill in any gaps or simply make an inference you will get crucified. However Infernal Affairs sets enough of a narrative and plot for the viewers imagination to run its course without having to stretch too far which makes INFERNAL AFFAIRS a much more poignant film in this regard and much, much better for long and tedious discussions.


Story line

I know that they basically tell the same story but I think that this is one of those cases where nothing under the Sun is new and we actually get to The two films biggest biggest difference is the way they both handle romance. In INFERNAL AFFAIRS the relationship between Dr. Lee (Kelly Chen) and Chen (Tony Chiu Wai Leung) is kept separate from the work relationship between Chen and Inspector Lau (Andy Lau), whereas THE DEPARTED does the complete opposite bringing this love triangle to the forefront between the main officers which I found to be fine upon my first viewing of THE DEPARTED I ended up thinking upon watching INFERNAL AFFAIRS that this could of even have been written off as irrelevant and probably unneeded, maybe only shoehorned in to make the leads sexual rivals as well.



Both films seem to emphasize the score, and in both cases I wasn't overly impressed with the score, I mean they didn't particularly stand out to me, but they both seem to do the job. Both are very in your face and quickly paced, very sombre and melodramatic during emotional quips between the actors and both scores front and center during their action sequences.

Winner: TIE


Now here's a difficult one, and it's nearly kind of sad talking about this, because in THE DEPARTED Scorsese invites heavy hitters Mr. Dicaprio and Matt Damon to fulfill the roles of the lead characters (not to mention Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg & Alec Baldwin not withstanding). Not to say Tony Leung & Andy Lau are slouches in Asia's movie market but this is a very typical example of why I think at the best of times the whole Hollywood award show culture is a complete joke. Tony Leung in the role of the mob-mole is eerily fantastic, his eyes conveying a melancholy glimmer of hope as he trudges through the life of an undercover in the Hong Kong triad underbelly, in which he has seemingly accepted his destiny to be an undercover. Andy Lau on the other hand might even be too perfectly suited for the role of a mole in the Hong Kong Police department, and at most times his image seems so squeaky and clean that it is kind of difficult to buy him as a traitor. Leonardo Dicaprio oozes intensity, portraying the mob-mole and he appears to be almost always in a constant dichotomous battle with his own consciousness as though he's being taken kicking and screaming through the trenches of the mob. Matt Damon on the other had delivers an incredible performance of perhaps a slightly too arrogant over-achiever in the Police Department quickly rising through the ranks. All in all I think Tony Leung delivers an incredible performance and outshines Andy Lau, but ultimately these two Hong Kong heavy weights are outgunned by Leo Dicaprio & Matt Damon. And it was close, really close, but I think Andy Lau's strong but not stellar performance let down the team on INFERNAL AFFAIRS, should it have been equal to Tony's performance we would probably be having a different conversation right now.



I love both films, I really do, but I have to give this one to INFERNAL AFFAIRS it's ultimately a much more concise and focused film. I can't believe how much of a carbon copy THE DEPARTED was, from nuances between the actors to the breaking of the cast and even the inside jokes. Upon watching INFERNAL AFFAIRS it was clear to me that it should of been able to stand on its own in the western market without an unneeded remake. As much as I love THE DEPARTED, upon viewing INFERNAL AFFAIRS, I have come to the conclusion that this remake is actually a little bit of a waste of Scorsese' talents, making it even more difficult to stomach the fact that this film actually gave him his first Oscar. I really think an Oscar-winning, star studded cast production from Hollywood should blow it out of the water hands down. INFERNAL AFFAIRS is a much heavier and more sentimental film even without the profanity and sex. This is probably due to the acting choices made by Tony Leung and its ability to revel in its own web of intrigue than spoon feeding its audience. If you haven't seen INFERNAL AFFAIRS, watch it and keep an eye out for the speaker room scene, gorgeous. So please do yourselves a favor when you can't decide what film to watch next and watch this film, it is seriously a must see film.


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