The Pay Off: The Best Film of 2006

Filmmaking by its very nature is a purely aesthetic gamble. No matter how certain you are of the results, or the material (script, actors, crew) that you put into a project, the final product is still very much undecided. With factors such as critical reaction and audience acceptance in the balance, movies are a wager between art and commerce, emotional resonance and the all important business bottom line. On occasion, both can come together to create a universally considered classic. On the other hand, reviewers can champion efforts ignored by the general public, while the masses can elevate the most mediocre movie to blockbuster status. In general, 2006 was a year of such enormous prospects. A certain man of steel made his way back to theaters, while a director known for his sly twist endings delivered an adult fairy tale that was more flawed than fascinating. Sequels spun out of control while prestidigitation argued for its place as part of the cinematic canon. With gore-filled genre turns combating yet another attempt at making the musical a viable commercial creation, it was indeed another divergent display of talent and tenacity.

For many of the movies on PopMatters‘ 2006 list of the year’s best films, it is clear that a heavy personal and professional stake was riding on the final product. Not just a threat to an individual’s reputation or bankability, but a real life bet between capability and execution. How else would you explain ideas as diverse as a film noir set in high school, an insider look at the death of Princess Diana, a cosmic love story centering on immortality, or a crazy Kazakhstan reporter deconstructing the still ugly American bias? Between serious science fiction, shot on digital experimentation, and references to something called “Pillow Pants”, the past 12 months saw crime, punishment, corruption and heroism all extolled through clever dialogue, gorgeous vistas, directorial prowess and acting excellence. While the risks were indeed large, it was nothing but jackpots for viewers lucky enough to witness these ongoing games of chance. What the pay off will be in the long term cannot detract from the 20 examples of excellence listed here.

Therefore, from 20 to 1, PopMatters presents its picks for the Best Films of 2006:

Director: Cristi Puiu

Film: The Death of Mr. Lazarescu

Studio: Tartan Films

Cast: Ion Fiscuteanu, Luminita Gheorghiu, Doru Ana, Dana Dogaru

MPAA rating: R

First date: 2005

US Release Date: 2006-04-26 (Limited release)

Image: http://ded5626.inmotionhosting.com/~popmat6/film/reviews/d/images/death-of-mr-lazarescu.jpg

Display as: List

List number: 20

Romanian director Cristi Puiu’s film follows a dying old drunkard, the aptly-named Dante Lazarescu, on a long night’s journey through the inferno of contemporary health care, misdiagnosed and dismissed, shuttled from hospital to hospital, with only a lone, crabby EMT looking out for him. The miracle of the film is that a journey towards death breathes with so much cinematic life — the constant overlapping dialogue, rich with a uniquely Eastern European sense of dark humor; the long-take verité scenes, stunningly choreographed and acted; the Frederick Wiseman-level view of social institutions and how they so often fail those they are supposed to serve. In telling the story of one man, Puiu captures a fleeting portrait of a whole society in tragicomic flux. Mark Labowskie

The Death of Mr. Lazarescu

Director: Larry Charles

Film: Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Cast: Sacha Baron Cohen, Kenneth Davitian, Pamela Anderson, Luenell, Pat Haggerty, Daniel Castro

Website: http://www.boratmovie.com/

MPAA rating: R

Trailer: http://www.apple.com/trailers/fox/borat/

First date: 2006

Distributor: Fox

US Release Date: 2006-11-03 (General release)

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/b/borat-poster.jpg

Display as: List

List number: 19

Ricky The Office Gervais was recently asked whether he worried about his jokes involving racism and the handicapped being misconstrued. He replied that modern humor is different in that where once we were asked to laugh AT the taboo, today we mock the ATTITUDE towards the taboo. No better distinction can be offered for Sacha Baron Cohen’s brilliant and controversial creation, Borat Sagdiyev, the anti-Semetic/anti-Gypsy Kazakh telejournalist with the Harry Reems moustache. Sent to the “US and A” to report on lifestyles abroad, Borat is so politically incorrect that his targets easily lower their guard to reveal their ignorance. This is biting satire on the level of Twain, Swift and Bierce, only sold in a package resembling Jackass. The only downside of Borat‘s success(!) is that his fame unfortunately insures his extinction. Once this thing hits DVD, there won’t be a racist, misogynist or bigot left to fool. Brian Holcomb

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

Director: David Lynch

Film: Inland Empire

Studio: Absurda

Cast: Laura Dern, Jeremy Irons, Justin Theroux

Website: http://www.inlandempirecinema.com/

MPAA rating: R

Trailer: http://www.inlandempirecinema.com/

First date: 2006

Distributor: 518 Media

US Release Date: 2006-12-02 (Very limited release)

UK Release Date: Unavailable

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/features_art/i/inland-empire-poster.jpg

Display as: List

List number: 18

This year’s great leap in artificial intelligence comes from David Lynch’s latest, a bulbous brain constructed from celluloid. Inland Empire is an EEG of a deteriorating personality tuned to the comic absurdities, emotional pivots, rambling thoughts, leaps of logics, and murky back alleys of the unguarded mind. Moment to moment its labyrinthine logic can be maddening, but the overlying arc of Laura Dern’s — its search for a workable whole is forcefully clear with an unexpectedly poignant finish. Despite the flat rendering of the digital video images, no film this year felt as fascinatingly and cinematically three-dimensional. Michael Buening

Inland Empire

Display Artist: Alejandro González Iñárritu

Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu

Film: Babel

Studio: Paramount Vantage

Cast: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Gael García Bernal, Rinko Kikuchi, Kôji Yakusho, Adriana Barraza, Elle Fanning

Website: http://www.paramountvantage.com/babel/

MPAA rating: R

Trailer: http://www.apple.com/trailers/paramount_vantage/babel/

First date: 2006

Distributor: Paramount

US Release Date: 2006-10-27 (Limited release)

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/features_art/b/babel-poster.jpg

Display as: List

List number: 17

The third collaboration between writer Guillermo Arriaga and director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Babel is more ambitious than Amores Perros or 21 Grams, and not as strong or cohesive as either. But even as it overreaches to intertwine its disparate stories, the movie also achieves thrilling highs. With a narrative that ranges from a man trying to help his critically wounded wife while stranded in Morocco to a deaf Japanese teenager desperate to lose her virginity, Arriaga and Inarritu lay it on a bit thick in themes and dramatic histrionics. But it doesn’t really matter when the director can turn simple acts, like a difficult phone call and a drug-fuelled club entrance, into some of the year’s most indelible cinematic images. Amos Posner

Babel

Director: John Hillcoat

Film: The Proposition

Studio: First Look

Cast: Ray Winstone, Guy Pearce, Danny Huston, Emily Watson, John Hurt, Richard Wilson

Website: http://www.thepropositionfilm.com/

MPAA rating: R

Trailer: http://www.apple.com/trailers/independent/theproposition/

First date: 2005

US Release Date: 2006-05-05 (Limited release)

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/features_art/p/propostition-trailer.jpg

Display as: List

List number: 16

Worthy of being considered alongside the work of Ford and Peckinpah, John Hillcoat’s Australian Western presents a moral dilemma of Shakespearean richness: in order to save his innocent younger brother, bandit Guy Pearce must track down and kill his older brother, a vicious murderer and rapist. Everything in the film is suffused with ambiguity: the sheriff (Ray Winstone), determined to “bring civilization to this land,” risks losing his own humanity in the process; the villain (Danny Huston) is a courtly, literate, sentimental gentleman who’s loyal to his family; the attempts to mete out “justice” result in wasteful slaughter (this is the true History of Violence); and surrounding everything is the raw beauty of the Australian landscape, soaked in sun, dust and blood, refusing to be civilized. Mark Labowskie

The Proposition

Director: Alfonso Cuaron

Film: Children of Men

Studio: Universal Pictures

Cast: Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Michael Caine

Website: http://www.childrenofmen.net/

MPAA rating: R

Trailer: http://www.apple.com/trailers/universal/childrenofmen/

First date: 2006

Distributor: Universal Pictures

US Release Date: 2006-12-25 (Limited release)

UK Release Date: 2006-09-22 (General release)

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/features_art/c/children-of-men-poster.jpg

Display as: List

List number: 15

With the dearth of serious science fiction in today’s cinematic stratagem (it’s all Star Wars and/or Trek for anyone considering a speculative epic) the biggest surprise with Alfonso Cuaron’s adaptation of P.D. James future shock novel is how immediate it all feels. Clive Owen steals center stage as an unlikely hero coerced into helping humanity, the apocalypse not achieved through weapons or war, but the lack of fertility. Part cautionary tale, part critique on current world events (including the US involvement in Iraq and terrorism) this amazingly effective thriller is as thought provoking as it is action packed. A particular sequence, shot in one continuous take, represents the year’s best edge of your seat moment. Bill Gibron

Children of Men

Director: Spike Lee

Film: Inside Man

Studio: Universal

Cast: Denzel Washington, Clive Owen, Jodie Foster, Chiwetel Ejoifor, Willem Dafoe

MPAA rating: R

First date: 2006

Distributor: Universal

US Release Date: 2006-03-24

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/i/inside-man-2006-poster.jpg

Display as: List

List number: 14

Somehow, the words “Spike Lee” and “commercial hit” don’t seem to belong together. Though he’s had his fair share of cinematic success — She’s Gotta Have It, Do the Right Thing, Malcolm X — his name is just not synonymous with mainstream acceptance. But with this perfectly plotted heist flick, navigated brilliantly by stars Denzel Washington, Clive Owen and Jodie Foster, Lee learned his kinetic film style could actually translate into big time box office receipts. Along with his devastating documentary on Hurricane Katrina (When the Levees Broke), it’s been a banner year for one of film’s fiercest — and most profound voices. Bill Gibron

Inside Man

Director: Michel Gondry

Film: The Science of Sleep (La Science des rêves)

Studio: Warner Independent Pictures

Cast: Gael García Bernal, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Jean-Michel Bernard, Emma de Caunes, Alain Chabat, Stéphane Metzger, Miou-Miou

Website: http://wip.warnerbros.com/scienceofsleep/

MPAA rating: R

Trailer: http://www.apple.com/trailers/warner_independent_pictures/thescienceofsleep/

First date: 2006

US Release Date: 2006-09-15 (Limited release)

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/s/science-of-sleep-poster.jpg

Display as: List

List number: 13

Over the course of the last couple of years, French filmmaker Michel Gondry has become the king of comedic quirk, translating two of arcane scribe Charlie Kaufman’s more inventive scripts — 2001’s Human Nature and 2004’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind — into amazing flights of fancy. Now, working from his own story, he gives us The Science of Sleep an amazing effort of visual astonishment and emotional whimsy. This unusual little fable, about a man who can’t tell the difference between dreams and reality, features inventive cinematic cues so clever that they, initially, look completely illogical. But Gondry finds a way to make them soar. Bill Gibron

The Science of Sleep (La Science des rêves)

Director: Kevin Smith

Film: Clerks II

Studio: MGM

Studio: Weinstein

Cast: Brian O’Halleron, Jeff Anderson, Rosario Dawson, Trevor Fehrman, Jennifer Schwalbach, Jason Mewes, Kevin Smith

Website: http://www.clerks2.com/

MPAA rating: R

Trailer: http://www.apple.com/trailers/weinstein/clerks2/

First date: 2006

US Release Date: 2006-07-21 (General release)

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/features_art/c/clerks-2-poster.jpg

Display as: List

List number: 12

Many may marvel at the inclusion of this title on a year-end list, but there is much more to Kevin Smith’s solid sequel to his original indie effort than dirty jokes about bestiality. As he did a decade before, Smith speaks for a generation unstuck in time, a group growing up not understanding their part in the overall scheme of society. While dialogue has always been his forte, Smith the director finally delivers scenes of pure cinematic sparkle — a moving montage to the Smashing Pumpkins “1979” and a throwback musical number to the Jackson 5’s “ABC” mark the two emotional extremes this fine film goes through. Bill Gibron

Clerks II

Display Artist: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris

Director: Jonathan Dayton

Director: Valerie Faris

Film: Little Miss Sunshine

Studio: Fox Searchlight

Cast: Alan Arkin, Abigail Breslin, Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Paul Dano, Greg Kinnear

Website: http://www2.foxsearchlight.com/littlemisssunshine/

MPAA rating: R

Trailer: http://www.ifilm.com/ifilmdetail/2718548

First date: 2006

US Release Date: 2006-07-26 (Limited release)

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/dvd_art/l/little-miss-sunshine.jpg

Display as: List

List number: 11

“Not F**cking fried chicken again!” roars an incredible Alan Arkin in the year’s best tragic comedy. Tragic in it’s most cosmic definition as life just keeps beating down on an ordinary American family who are certainly no better than any other. In many ways they are worse; a fine collection of depressed losers spinning their wheels in the fast lane of the middle class. This is a fine film that might end up a victim of going from underrated to overhyped after the Awards season. Tell us all to shut the hell up and watch what wonders can be done with a VW van and a little determination. Dreams are shattered one by one and the only thing the Hoover family can do is to make do. You’ll be surprised how much you come to care about them all. Brian Holcomb

Little Miss Sunshine

The Pay Off Part 2

Director: Paul Greengrass

Film: United 93

Studio: Universal

Cast: David Alan Basche, Khalid Abdalla, Ben Sliney, Gregg Henry

MPAA rating: R

First date: 2006

US Release Date: 2006-04-28

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/features_art/u/united-93-poster.jpg

Display as: List

List number: 10

Easily the most impressive and surprising accomplishment by any filmmaker this year, Paul Greengrass’ account of the hijacked flight that never reached its target on 9/11 is both frightening to the core and entirely tasteful. In lucid, stripped-down style, the movie follows all perspectives, from the passengers to the air traffic controllers to the terrorists themselves. United 93 avoids politics, famous actors, and sentiment, instead choosing to simply place the audience in the moment, with full and startling directness. It’s one of the most uncompromising studio movies of all time. Amos Posner

United 93

Director: Guillermo del Toro

Film: Pan’s Labyrinth (El Laberinto del Fauno)

Studio: Picturehouse

Cast: Ivana Baquero, Doug Jones, Sergi López, Ariadna Gil, Maribel Verdú, Álex Angulo, Roger Casamajor, Sebastián Haro

Website: http://www.panslabyrinth.com/

MPAA rating: R

Trailer: http://www.ifilm.com/video/2769804

First date: 2006

Distributor: Optimum Releasing

US Release Date: 2006-12-29 (Limited release)

UK Release Date: 2006-11-24 (Limited release)

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/p/pans-labyrinth-poster.jpg

Display as: List

List number: 9

With Pan’s Labyrinth Guillermo del Toro creates a fantasy film as emotionally sophisticated as its special effects and makes Peter Jackson look like last year’s kiddie fare chump in the process. Set during the Spanish Civil War and couched in a traditional girl-princess narrative that builds off European folklore, the story asks tough questions about adulthood, family, courage, and sacrifice. The resonant earth-toned images produced by Eugenio Caballero’s art direction and Guillermo Navarro’s cinematography strikes the right balance between storybook precociousness and nightmarish terror. Although marred by a smattering of portentousness (a similar affliction of del Toro’s compatriot Alfonso Cuaron) del Toro proves you can have your fairy tale and bloodily deconstruct it too. Michael Buening

Pan’s Labyrinth (El Laberinto del Fauno)

Director: Rian Johnson

Film: Brick

Studio: Focus Features

Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Nora Zehetner, Lukas Haas, Noah Fleiss, Matt O’Leary, Emilie de Ravin, Noah Segan, Richard Roundtree, Meagan Good

MPAA rating: R

First date: 2005

Distributor: Universal

US Release Date: 1969-12-31 (Limited release)

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/b/brick-2005.jpg

Display as: List

List number: 8

A detective movie transplanted to a modern SoCal high school with neo-noir dialogue intact sounds gimmicky on paper. But Rian Johnson’s debut feature Brick works not because of novelty (though it certainly has that going for it) or comedy (though it is, at times, very funny) but because its teenage take on kingpins, dames, and class war makes perfect emotional sense, down to the slangy patter and lovelorn hero. That hero is played with beautiful toughness by former child star Joseph Gordon-Levitt. He’s grown into one of his generation’s most talented actors; Johnson may achieve the same among directors. Jesse Hassenger

Brick

Director: Richard Linklater

Film: A Scanner Darkly

Studio: Warner Independent Pictures

Cast: Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey Jr., Woody Harrelson, Winona Ryder and Rory Cochrane

Website: http://wip.warnerbros.com/ascannerdarkly/

MPAA rating: R

Trailer: http://www.ifilm.com/ifilmdetail/2713794

First date: 2006

US Release Date: 2006-07-07 (Limited release)

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/features_art/s/scanner-darkly-poster.jpg

Display as: List

List number: 7

In blending author Philip K. Dick with the stunning computer generated rotoscoping animation he used in Waking Life, director Richard Linklater has reinvented the visual viability of 2D cartooning. Relying on that time honored plot of a super-addictive drug and the people who use and abuse it, Linklater utilizes his unusual cinematic approach to completely blur the lines between fantasy and reality, making the trials and turmoil experience by our hero — undercover cop Bob Arctor — that much more compelling. Following Dick’s storyline to a fault, Linklater proves that even something written in the 1970s can have cultural resonance today. Along with the trippy pen and ink imagery, Scanner becomes a manipulative mindf*ck, a movie adverse to giving away its secrets and requiring an audience to really think to discover its designs. Bill Gibron

A Scanner Darkly

Director: Darren Aronofsky

Film: The Fountain

Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Rachel Weisz, Ellen Burstyn, Sean Gullette, Sean Patrick Thomas

Website: http://thefountainmovie.warnerbros.com/

MPAA rating: PG-13

Trailer: http://www.apple.com/trailers/wb/thefountain/

First date: 2006

US Release Date: 2006-11-22 (General release)

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/f/fountain-poster.jpg

Display as: List

List number: 6

Anyone can throw together a science-fiction movie, but it takes a special mind to envision one that spans more than a century while combining conquistadors, cancer researchers, and futuristic space travel. And it takes Darren Aronofsky to weave all that into singularly focused, emotionally heartbreaking story about one man’s struggle to understand death. Adding in a surreal layer of special effects — done not with CG but by zoomed-in photography of chemical reactions — and Hugh Jackman’s heartrending performance, and Aronofsky’s made not just another sci-fi flick, but a film that expertly completes his trilogy of movies about obsessions, disasters, and enduring love. Marisa LaScala

The Fountain

Director: Todd Field

Film: Little Children

Studio: New Line

Cast: Kate Winslet, Jennifer Connelly, Noah Emmerich, Jackie Earle Haley, Patrick Wilson, Gregg Edelman, Sarah Buxton

Website: http://www.littlechildrenmovie.com/

MPAA rating: R

Trailer: http://www.apple.com/trailers/newline/littlechildren/

First date: 2006

Distributor: New Line

US Release Date: 2006-10-06 (Limited release)

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/l/little-children-poster.jpg

Display as: List

List number: 5

As a story of infidelity in a quiet suburb upturned by the presence of a convicted sex offender, Little Children is already a tight, compelling drama with wonderful ensemble performances headlined by Kate Winslet and Patrick Wilson. But Todd Field’s adaptation of Tom Perotta’s novel lends great quirk and humor to what might have been a simple domestic dissection. The movie features a detached voiceover that wryly comments and jokes, standing outside the story to poke and laugh at it with the audience. All the usual elements are strong, but it’s the added overlay of surrealism and wit that sets it apart from the year’s other offerings. Amos Posner

Little Children

Director: Ryan Fleck

Film: Half Nelson

Studio: ThinkFilm

Cast: Ryan Gosling, Anthony Mackie, Shareeka Epps, Karen Chilton, Nathan Corbett, Monique Churnen, Tina Holmes

MPAA rating: R

Trailer: http://www.ifilm.com/ifilmdetail/2757036

First date: 2006

Distributor: Sony

US Release Date: 2006-08-11 (Limited release)

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/h/half-nelson-poster.jpg

Display as: List

List number: 4

All I really need to know I learned in Half Nelson. Wisdom for Hegel acolytes is not found in dialectics, but somewhere behind Ryan Gosling’s rakish grin. Other things I discovered: Opposites attract. Crack is whack. A herky-jerky indie with indelible performances can prove more than the sum of its hipper-than-thou cinematography and score. When Ryan Gosling acts like he doesn’t know what he’s doing as a teacher he comes off like the cock of the walk. Ryan Gosling is the greatest actor of his generation. There are other actors in this film, but said performances don’t matter because Ryan Gosling can go on a week-long bender leaving dreams and whores in his wake and still rouse himself from it looking really hot. Teachers, take heart. And take another, uh, gander. Maureen Miller

Half Nelson

Director: Christopher Nolan

Film: The Prestige

Studio: Touchstone Pictures

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Scarlett Johansson, Rebecca Hall, Andy Serkis, Piper Perabo, David Bowie

Website: http://theprestige.movies.go.com/

MPAA rating: PG-13

Trailer: http://www.apple.com/trailers/touchstone/theprestige/

First date: 2006

Distributor: Buena Vista

US Release Date: 2006-10-20 (General release)

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/p/prestige-poster.jpg

Display as: List

List number: 3

Christopher Nolan has an affinity for trickery and the psychological. In his elegant adaptation The Prestige, he wields both with a showman’s flair. Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman play two nineteenth-century magicians determined to out-trick one another. Bale is the dedicated genius; Jackman is more debonair and personable, but equally obsessive. Together, they tread the line between science and wonder, fakery and fact. There are twists, of course, but even if you spot one ahead of time, they’re so thematically rich that you’re still left with plenty to think about. The Prestige is the kind of perfectly executed film that is often dismissed as an enjoyable exercise at first, only to have its reputation flourish over time — kind of a magic trick unto itself. Jesse Hassenger

The Prestige

Director: Stephen Frears

Film: The Queen

Studio: Miramax

Cast: Helen Mirren, Michael Sheen, James Cromwell, Sylvia Syms

Website: http://www.thequeen-movie.com/

MPAA rating: PG-13

Trailer: http://www.apple.com/trailers/miramax/thequeen/

First date: 2006

Distributor: Miramax

US Release Date: 2006-09-30 (Limited release)

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/q/queen-poster.jpg

Display as: List

List number: 2

The Cherry Orchard rewritten for the modern age of celebrity. As Elizabeth and Diana engage in a posthumous duel for the public’s affections, we realize we’re also watching a changing-of-the-guard: the personal, candid era of paparazzi fame is ushered in, the older way-reserve, grace, dignity-is booted out. The film, directed by the resourceful and unshowy Stephen Frears, invites us to sympathize with the hard, obdurate monarch, to see the strength and integrity (as well as the foolishness) in her mad resistance to change. Helen Mirren gives a truly cinematic performance: we scan her nearly impenetrable face for signs of the human being inside the figurehead, and in a scene involving a broken-down Jeep, we actually glimpse her soul. Mark Labowskie

The Queen

Director: Martin Scorsese

Film: The Departed

Studio: Warner Bros.

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Ray Winstone, Vera Farmiga, Anthony Anderson, Alec Baldwin

Website: http://thedeparted.warnerbros.com/

MPAA rating: R

Trailer: http://www.apple.com/trailers/wb/thedeparted/

First date: 2006

US Release Date: 2006-10-06 (General release)

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/d/departed-poster.jpg

Display as: List

List number: 1

It doesn’t seem fair to call his take on the famed Hong Kong crime film a “return to form” for Martin Scorsese. As one of America’s few certified cinematic auteurs, crime and corruption are just two of the several subjects this filmmaker has handled with style and power. But something about this tale of undercover cops playing both sides of the law seems so right in this director’s hands that the results are a pure entertainment delight. A clear favorite of both fans and critics, The Departed threatens to break one of Scorsese’s longest running records. After almost 40 years behind the lens, Oscar may finally have to smile on this gifted moviemaking genius. Bill Gibron

The Departed

PopMatters