Alec Baldwin shouting ‘Patriot Act’ in The Departed: a close reading


Martin Scorsese’s vision of America plays out as a country of cops and robbers. Living in the US, you find yourself on one side or the other. Or, in the logic of his 2006 movie The Departed, “when you’re facing a loaded gun, what’s the difference?”

The difference, in Scorsese’s self-consciously post-9/11 gangster flick, is the movie’s obsession with the surveillance state. The Departed cribs the ludicrous setup of the Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs: the police have a mole in the mafia (Leonardo DiCaprio), and the mafia has a mole in the police (Matt Damon). Narrative destiny tasks them with finding the identity of their counterpart, a conceit that sets off a converging mouse hunt — or maybe, in this case, a rat hunt.

Outside of being a…

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Author: Kevin Nguyen