This column has been previously used for writers discussing their thoughts after an initial viewing of a classic film. I’ve seen Martin Scorsese’s The Departed at least a dozen times, but I’d like to take you back to the week surrounding my first watch. Everyone has a few dates in their life when they remember exactly where they were and what they were doing. For me, one of those dates is October 2, 2006. Another is October 7, 2006—when I saw this marvelous film for the first time.
I was a freshman at Lehigh University. It was just over a month into the start of college. On the evening of the 2nd, my dorm hall was participating in our first flag football game of the semester. Relationship building was critical during these weeks. Everyone was still feeling out who was a friend because of proximity and who was a friend for the next four years or even for life. So I took in every activity I could, even if it meant trudging way uphill to the top of our campus to run around in the mud with strangers. It was a blast.
Now I probably wouldn't remember the game-saving stop I made if it wasn't for what happened next. Hell, if I hit my head any harder on the way down the hill, I might not have remembered anything about that evening. But walking back to my dorm, I slipped going down a very steep section of campus—one that I should say I wasn't supposed to be on—and skidded 50 feet down the rocky embankment on my face and chest, flipping over at the end just so I could feel the warm blood trickle down my face and see it splash on the few shriveled leaves autumn had given me for a cushion.
"Last time, a guy fell down here, he broke his neck!" the EMT said. I, ahead of my time, gave him a face McKayla Maroney would popularize six years later.
Truly, though, the accident was sort of whatever. I still carry some scars—on my face and my arm—but I was damn lucky all things considered. The worst part was the major pause in the relationship building. The pain was too much to leave my dorm that week. When I did, I was hounded by strangers wanting to know what happened to me. Showering was a chore. I didn't for a few days, in fact, and when the girl I liked came to deliver me some food, I realized that was maybe not my strongest call. [She'd marry me eight years later, though, so I guess it worked out. I was clean and smelled great that day.]
Nevertheless, I was feeling pretty down about myself heading into our fall break that weekend. My parents, worried if I was underselling the extent of my injuries [I was], decided to come pick me up and take me home. That Saturday, October 7, we went to check out Martin Scorsese's The Departed.
I was totally enthralled from the jump. The tango score that drives the film's extended prologue was phenomenal. The performances from some of 18-year-old me's favorite actors—Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg—were wonderfully entertaining. The body count was wild. The closing twist was mind-blowing.
The theater at which we went to see the film is not one of Scranton, PA's finest. About a third of the way into the film, something with the projector broke. No one could fix it and at least 30 minutes of the film played upside-down. I was short a little blood from the events of a few days earlier, but what was left I was happy to send rushing to my head as I contorted to see these guys manipulate and kill one another.
I left elated. This was one of the most entertaining movie-going experiences I'd ever had [something that I'd maintain today]. I don't care that the film isn't one of Scorsese's best; It was exactly what I needed on that day, at that time.
Watching the film today no longer takes me back to the pain of those days, but it's still just as exhilarating. I can laugh at some of its silliness [more on that later this week], but I'm forever grateful for those emotionally uplifting, even transformative 150 minutes ten years ago today.