With The Departed, William Monahan turned what was, in Infernal Affairs, a smart concept given a terminally vague execution into a high-concept vehicle fit for mass consumption. Which is to say, he aimed to make a pop masterpiece but, understandably, sacrificed the original’s ambiguities of character in favor of ridiculously simplistic pop psychology. Whereas it was somewhat difficult to get a read on where Andy Lau and Tony Leung Chiu Wai’s allegiances were falling, Monahan turns Leo and Matt into cellophane, ready to wrap their naked psyches around Vera Farmiga’s naked legs. Not that it ends up mattering, as he provides Scorsese with more than enough manly moments to compensate (e.g. “Patriot Act! Patriot Aaaaact!”). It’s a little strange to think that a script so carefully crafted to remain subservient to its auteur master’s concerns would represent one of its strongest chances to win an Oscar (nearly as strong a chance as said auteur), but nearly all the scripts in this category seem to take a back seat to some other overriding element threatening to undermine the scripts’ Oscar-worthiness. Children of Men’s cinematography, Notes on a Scandal’s vocal decibel counts, and Borat’s predominately unstaged reactions (in addition to the fact that it, more or less, didn’t even have a script). In fact, the only piece of truly classic screenwriting structure—Little Children—just happens to be a piece of shit. One that makes the decision to have Mark Walhberg’s Dignam flip Matt Damon off as he walks by his office window seem nearly as mythic a character moment as anything in Infernal Affairs.
Will Win: The Departed
Should Win: Children of Men