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The Departed/Internal Affairs Film Comparison

Essay Topic: ,

The Departed, a film directed by Martin Scorsese, won an Oscar for Best Picture, as well as 3 other Academy Awards. The story however, is based on a 2002 Hong Kong film directed by Wai-keung Lau and Siu Fai Mak, Mougaan dou; better known to us as Infernal Affairs. The similarities between these two crime/drama/thrillers are great.

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In The Departed, director Martin Scorsese takes the story into his own style of storytelling, but the adaptation of the screenplay originally written by director Siu Fai Mak and Felix Chong is almost identical to the screenplay by William Monahan adapted for The Departed. The key overall difference between the two films can be attributed to their setting. Infernal Affairs, based in Hong Kong, was adapted or “Americanized” to fit American customs and situations, namely the situation in south Boston with the Irish mafia “some time ago. Neither film specifies an exact historical era. There is an equivalent to most Infernal Affairs characters in The Departed: you have the mole in the Hong Kong IAU (internal affairs unit), Inspector Lau Kin Ming, played by Andy Lau, who is the equivalent to Matt Damon’s role as the mole in the Boston State Police, Colin Sullivan; there’re the undercover cops, Chan Wing Yan (Tony Leung Chi Shing) and William Costigan Jr. (Leonardo Di Caprio); there’s the boss of the Hong Kong mafia (the Triads), Hon Sam (Eric Tsang), and the Irish mafioso, Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson).

The head of the Boston State Police is Captain Queenan (Martin Sheen), who is mirrored after SP Wong Chi Shing (Anthony Wong Chau-Sang). There is no real equivalent to Mark Walberg’s character, Staff Sgt. Dignam, but I’m glad they added him. The two films share similar style and techniques; however it is easy to distinguish Scorsese’s directing. Both films make good use of moving shots, which only add to the liveliness of the action. The Departed has virtually no special effects at all, using editing to only to cut and colour correct.

Infernal Affairs is similar to that, but makes much more use of fast editing and montage, using slight special effects for transitions and introducing key characters, using a combination of freeze frame and a desaturation filter for instance. Small effects are used in moderation throughout the film to add to the movie’s overall intensity, and makes fast cuts with multiple angles to create emphasis and a fast-paced feel in certain scenes. The overall style of the films is fairly similar: predominant use of medium to long shots, steadicam, tracking, and crane shots can be seen throughout both films.

Therefore this Creates fast paced movements and a flow which also generates this overall feel of realism. Both films start relatively the same: the gang boss recruits new, young blood to put through the academy to work as moles for them. Although Costello recruits Sullivan at an earlier age than Sam, they both seem to be raising workers for the same purpose (at the beginning, we see other kids in the car shop with Colin, who can be expected to be there for the same reason), and the stories each focus on Colin (Costello’s mole), Lau (Sam’s mole), Costigan (State Police undercover), and Wing-Yan