Truth amid the lies of The Departed

“Do you lie?” 

In Martin Scorsese’s 2006 film The Departed, a young State Trooper, Billy Costigan (Leonardo Dicaprio) goes undercover to dismantle Frank Costello’s gang (Jack Nicholson). As Costigan begins working for Costello, he gains the gang’s trust and takes part in their illegal activities. Collin Sullivan (Matt Damon) infiltrates the investigative unit of the South Boston police department, aiming to keep Costello out of jail. Sullivan feeds information to Costello and Costigan feeds information to Captain Queenin (Martin Sheen). Both sides catch on to the lying and deception and work to oust the rat. The police put Sullivan and Costigan’s identities in danger. The constant battle between liars eventually boils over and leads to a fascinating ending.

Throughout the film, lying and deception is repetitive. Good and bad guys rapidly exchange information for their own benefit. Costigan is placed into Costello’s prominent Boston gang. Viewers experience a modern-day mob collecting money from their businesses, shooting those who don’t pay, and exchanging stolen goods for millions of dollars. 

Specifically, when Frank Costello had a drug deal set up, Costigan would contact Captain Queenin, but before an arrest could be made, Sullivan would call and advise Costello what to do. Sullivan would discreetly ring his ‘dad’ while the sting operation took place. He would say, “I won’t be home for supper,” and Costello would play it safe and promptly leave the scene. At the same time, Costigan would perform the same maneuver and guide the police to Costello’s location. This included cop cars storming to run-down warehouses in abandoned areas of Boston.

The exchanging of information on both sides leads to heated scenes at the police department. Sergeant Dignam (Mark Wahlberg) is one of the first to understand that the rat is in the observation room. He instigates a physical altercation with Sullivan and Dignam is assigned a leave of absence.

In the early scenes, Collin Sullivan asks his girlfriend out on a date. There, he simply asks, “Do you lie?” She answers, “Sometimes, yeah.” Sullivan is a complete fraud. He is a living rat. Scrocese manifests that the ones who lie become afraid of being lied to.

The difference between him and Costigan is that Sullivan himself is a born liar. Raised and trained by Costello, Sullivan has always wanted to be bad. On the other hand, Costigan is a normal guy who picks up a new identity. Because of Costigan’s truthful past, his new identity leads to anxiety and insomnia, something that does not occur with Sullivan. Costigan is forced to act like someone he isn’t.

Costigan is also living two lives because of his undercover identity. Costigan is doing everything he can to get the murderer, Costello, off the streets, but to do so, he needs to lie and change his ways. Scorsese provides breathtaking plot twists and action filled scenes to keep viewers on the edge of their seats.

Scorsese attempts to illustrate the difference between a good lie and a bad lie. In order to take down liars, you must lie to yourself and others. The film’s motive is to show that even the most trusted still lie.