An Appreciation For ‘Infernal Affairs’ (2002): ‘The Departed’s Source Material
The movie that inspired Martin Scorcese’s only directorial Oscar winner, The Departed, is China’s Infernal Affairs. I had originally seen the film years prior to Scorcese’s film, but wanted to revisit it. I held the film in high regard, so much so, that I felt it was a superior offering to its American re-imagining. After seeing it recently however, I am not certain that I still hold that belief. Nevertheless, it is still a strong, stylish film that hits multiple right notes.
Affairs features gang members and cops who infiltrate the police academy and the gang respectively to help each side with intel and thrive long into the future. After placing several recruits, Affairs follows two: Tony Leung as Yan (an undercover agent posing as a gang member) and Inspector Lau (Andy Lau), a gang member who rises in the ranks of the force as a man on the inside. When drug deals go down, each side tips the other side off to the action in clever and thrilling sequences, leading to a stalemate. The rest of the film primarily deals with each side, gang and police, trying to figure out who’s the mole with each outfit. It is heady and clever stuff.
Scorcese’s The Departed is a longer, more nuanced film, while Infernal, which led to two follow ups creating a trilogy, is perhaps more style than substance as a whole. Still, the film holds up well, though on a side note, the Blu-ray could stand a much better transfer as a film of this caliber so clearly deserves. The ultimate climax of the film leads to a satisfying end, keeping the audience guessing as to which side will ultimately win out, if any. Not much is lost in translation here, which is a good thing.
The Departed mimics Affairs in many ways, from shots (rooftop meetings play a part), to specific bits of dialogue (figuring out how to tell who is a cop). Each features tragic deaths and is moving yet gripping. I eagerly await seeing The Departed for yet another time, now that I have seen this, to further compare and engrain an appreciation for the originality brought to Hollywood from such fine source material. Check out Infernal Affairs if you never have and if you are a fan of Scorcese’s Oscar winner, this is absolutely required viewing. Enjoy.