Exploring Soundtracks: The Departed


Today in Exploring Soundtracks, we’ll be looking at Martin Scorsese’s 2006 star-studded crime drama, “The Departed”.

This will be the fifth film of Martin Scorsese’s that we’ll have looked at so far. Even though our walk through Scorsese’s filmography has been a bit jumpy and out of order, we’ve still covered some of his most well-known and popular films. Most of the films were epic period dramas. “Goodfellas”, “Gangs of New York”, “Casino”, and “The Aviator” each take place in a distinct setting. And we’ve seen how intentional Scorsese is when it comes to finding the right song for a scene. “The Departed” is no different.

But Scorsese shouldn’t get all the credit. As with many of his previous films, Robbie Robertson played a key role in picking out a lot of the tracks heard in “The Departed”. While in the past, Scorsese has used the music of Howard Shore for supplemental scoring, the soundtrack for “The Departed” only features two tracks credited to the composer.

Most of the songs heard in “The Departed” are popular songs. And, like in other Scorsese films we’ve looked at, not all of them made the soundtrack. The Rolling Stone’s “Gimme Shelter”, John Lennon’s “Well Well Well”, and “Thief’s Theme” by Nas are just a few of the songs left out.

But before we get too into the soundtrack itself, here’s a quick synopsis for anyone who isn’t familiar with the plot of “The Departed”.


“The Departed” follows the interlocked story of Irish mob boss Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson), who plants a mole, Collin Sullivan (Matt Damon) in the Massachusetts State police department. At the same time, the police assign trooper Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) to infiltrate Costello’s operation. When both sides realize they have a rat in their midst, Costigan and Sullivan race to uncover the other before they’re both found out.

The Departed

It’s too bad that The Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” didn’t make it onto the soundtrack, because its placement in the opening sequence underneath Nicholson’s monologue is perfect. It sets the expectations of a war that’s coming, and it’s also just an amazing song, even if it is a bit overused in movies.

While “Gimme Shelter” didn’t make it to the album, one Rolling Stones song did. That one is “Let It Loose”, which plays during a scene when Costigan is first questioned and abused by Costello. Even though you can barely hear it in the background, it’s there. And the appropriateness of its placement is typical of Scorsese.

Another great song comes in during the title sequence, and did make it to the soundtrack album. The Dropkick Murphys’ “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” not only fits with the setting of the film, but also sets the gritty tone to expect.

Out of all the songs in “The Departed” soundtrack, there’s one that doesn’t quite fit as well as the others. That song is “Comfortably Numb” by Roger Water, featuring Van Morrison. While I’m a fan of the original Pink Floyd version, this one comes off as a bit too saccharine for my taste. Even given the context of the love scene between Sullivan’s girlfriend and Costigan, this version still sounds a little out of place.

Final Thoughts

While the soundtrack to “The Departed” maybe isn’t as robust as some of Scorsese’s other films, it’s still got a few golden moments in it. Overall, however, it falls a little short of soundtracks like, “Casino” or “Gangs of New York” in terms of ambition. Although “The Departed” is one of my personal favorites of Scorsese, it’s soundtrack might be one of my least, with the exception of “I’m Shipping Up to Boston”.

That about wraps up our discussion of the soundtrack to “The Departed”. Next time, we’ll continue our walk through Martin Scorsese’s filmography by looking at his 2010 film, “Shutter Island”.

Track List

1. “Comfortably Numb” Roger Waters (Feat. Van Morrison & The Band) 7:59
2. “Sail On, Sailor” The Beach Boys 3:18
3. “Let It Loose” The Rolling Stones 5:18
4. “Sweet Dreams” Roy Buchanan 3:32
5. “One Way Out” The Allman Brothers Band 4:57
6. “Baby Blue” Badfinger 3:36
7. “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” Dropkick Murphys 2:34
8. “Nobody but Me” The Human Beinz 2:18
9. “Tweedle Dee” LaVern Baker 3:10
10. “Sweet Dreams (of You)” Patsy Cline 2:34
11. “The Departed Tango” Howard Shore, Marc Ribot 3:32
12. “Beacon Hill” Howard Shore, Sharon Isbin 2:33

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