Dylan Jones: The Great Escape

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The Independent Online

Years ago, when I worked for The Face - a publication that has now joined Nova, Smash Hits and Town in the pantheon of iconic albeit defunct magazines of record - I would repeatedly hear a complaint from its resident music critic. He was called David Toop - probably still is - and his complaint was this: no matter how well-argued his reviews were, no matter how well-judged or finely calibrated, every month, after publication, someone in a loud jacket and a funny haircut would still come up to him and ask, with not a hint of embarrassment, "Yeah, I read your review of Purple Rain/The Joshua Tree/Brothers in Arms etc. Sounds really interesting. Is it any good?".

It was then that I realised that, no matter how much we journalists like to think that our opinions matter, all punters want to know is whether or not Project X is worth spending 15 quid on, or two hours with. Is it a thumbs up, or a thumbs down? And I'm as guilty as anyone. I know that even if my most trusted critics - Alexis Petridis, Anthony Lane, Craig Brown, for starters - tell me that Project X is the greatest thing since sliced bread/ joined-up writing/ gravity, I'm still not going to know until I actually consume it myself.

Which is why I knew very little about Martin Scorsese's The Departed before I saw it. I'd picked up that it was a return to form, and that Jack Nicholson and co weren't bad at all. But seeing that Scorsese hasn't made a good film since GoodFellas, and Nicholson hasn't made one since God was a boy, my expectations were around waist level.

But - and I don't say this lightly - bar the last 15 minutes (which are too similar to the movie of which this is a remake, Infernal Affairs), the film is something of a little masterpiece, and offers redemption for both director and star, while being the only film I've seen that justifies Leonardo DiCaprio calling himself an actor (he's astonishing, as are Matt Damon and Mark Wahlberg).

There are disconcerting elements - the female lead (who manages to sleep with both protagonists) looks unnervingly like Heather Mills McCartney; while Nicholson's death scene is as ludicrously baroque as Al Pacino's in The Godfather III - but, all in all, this could very easily be the best film this year. To top it all, Scorsese's taste in music is even more esoteric than Tarantino's, and we're treated to classics including the Beach Boys' "Sail on Sailor", the Rolling Stones' "Let it Loose", and a terribly moving version of Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb" by Van Morrison from the 1990 Roger Waters CD, The Wall: Live in Berlin.

So, there you have it: The Departed is brilliant. And if you don't believe me, go see it for yourself - I wouldn't believe me if I were you.

Dylan Jones is the editor of 'GQ'