"The Departed" Movie Summary

by Micah McDunnigan

"The Departed" is a crime drama that was directed by Martin Scorsese. This film centers on the efforts of the Massachusetts State Police, who are trying to take down an organized crime syndicate. Of course, the criminals are trying to stay one step ahead of the police's efforts. This film stars Jack Nicholson, Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Sheen.


"The Departed" begins with the common starting point of the two main characters, Billy Costigan (DiCaprio) and Colin Sullivan (Damon), at their police academy graduation. The mob took Sullivan under its wing at a young age, and crime boss Frank Costello (Nicholson) used his connections to get Sullivan into the academy. Costello also landed him a good assignment after his graduation, so Sullivan would be able to provide him with information. Costigan came from a poor background and has no ties to help his law enforcement career.


Captain Queenan (Sheen) is an honest cop who knows that Costello has moles in the state police. He gives Costigan the opportunity to make his career by infiltrating Costello's organization to root out the moles and to gather evidence to convict Costello himself. Because Queenan knows about the moles, he keeps Costigan's assignment a strict secret. No one else in the department knows about his assignment, so the moles can't feed Costigan's true identity to Costello.

Point of Conflict

The conflict in "The Departed" revolves around the opposing cat-and-mouse game in which Costigan and Sullivan find themselves. After Costigan begins feeding information to Queenan that leads to police action against Costello's organization, the crime boss knows there is a mole in his outfit. To seal the leak, Costello tasks his own mole, Sullivan, with finding out the identity of the mole who inflitrated the criminal enterprise. The two moles, on opposite sides of the law, are trying to uncover each other's identity before one of them is found out by the other.

Hall of Mirrors

What ensues is a twisted game of mirrors in which both Costigan and Sullivan come to realize they are both playing a game with more levels and complexities than a police organization trying to take down a criminal organization. As both moles begin pressing hard for information, they uncover more dual loyalties within both Costello's criminal enterprise and the police force itself. Uncovering these secrets sets the climax of the movie into motion, with deadly consequences for both the cops and the criminals.