The Departed Script Breakdown - Featured Image

What makes The Departed so great? Is the gritty storytelling, character growth and fantastic dialogue? Yes, but it has something else going for it; a dual-protagonist plot.

Based on a Chinese film called Internal Affairs and loosely based on the real-life gangster Whitey Bulger, The Departed script is a master class in storytelling. In this article, we will breakdown The Departed plot and discuss the protagonists, dialogue and tragic ending.

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The Departed Script Breakdown - William Monahan Headshot
The Departed Script Breakdown - Alan Mak Headshot
The Departed Script Breakdown - Felix Chong Headshot

WHO WROTE THE departed SCRIPT?

Written by William Monahan, Alan Mak and Felix Chong

William Monahan is a writer/novelist from Boston, Massachusetts. His most famous novel is Light House: A Trifle. He is known for writing The Departed, London Boulevard and Kingdom of Heaven.

Alan Mak is a writer/director from Hong Kong. He went to the Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts. His film, Infernal Affairs, won several awards and was the inspiration for The Departed.

Felix Chong is a writer/director from Hong Kong. He is known for films such as Project Gutenberg and Overheard. His film, Infernal Affairs, won several awards and was the inspiration for The Departed.

Script Teardown

STRUCTURE OF The Departed SCREENPLAY

Here is the story structure for The Departed screenplay:

Exposition

A young boy, Colin, meets mobster Frank Costello. Years later, Colin graduates from the police academy in Boston. Around the same time, Billy also graduates from the academy.

Inciting Incident

Colin is an informant, planted in the state police by Frank. His job is to keep Frank aware of any police activity involving criminal organization. Billy is hand-picked by Captain Queenan and Sergeant Dignam to go undercover and infiltrate Frank Costello’s organization.

Plot Point One

Billy gets himself arrested and serves a jail sentence. He is discredited by the police. He eventually gets noticed by Frank’s gang by starting a fight with a member. To pay his debt, he now works for Frank Costello.

Plot Point Two

Colin begins dating a psychologist named Madolyn. He also gets to work feeding info to Frank. The police are aware of the deal between the Chinese and Frank’s gang.. He calls Frank under the guise of calling his “dad.”

Plot Point Three

Billy begins seeing Madolyn for therapy. They have an affair behind Colin’s back.

Rising Action

Colin learns at the last minute that the cops have set up surveillance and are ready to catch Frank in the act. Colin calls Frank, telling him to turn off all of their cell phones.

Midpoint

The deal goes down between Frank and the Chinese. They exchange fake microprocessing chips for a lot of money. The police and by extension, Billy, learn that there is a rat when all of the gangsters turn off their cell phones. Colin learns that there is a mole when Billy leaves his phone on.

Plot Point One

Frank puts extra pressure on Colin, threatening to hurt Madolyn if his info is better and more up-to-date. Queenan and Dignam also put more pressure on Billy. They threaten to give him up if he doesn’t keep doing his job.

Plot Point Two

While doing a job for Frank, Billy finds out that Frank is an FBI informant. That is why he keeps getting away.

Rising Action One

Billy nearly catches up to Colin in a theater and an alley. Colin kills an innocent man after he finds out he is being followed. Frank puts pressure on Billy, suspecting him of being the snitch.

Rising Action Two

Colin is put in charge of finding the rat (himself). He sets up an operation in an attempt to catch Billy. Captain Queenan meets Billy in an abandoned building. Frank’s thugs arrive; Billy gets out, but Queenan is thrown out of a window and killed.

Build Up

Colin finds out that Frank is an FBI informant and kills him in a police raid. Billy returns to the police to get paid and leave the force. He figures out that Colin is the rat and quickly leaves. Colin figures out that Billy is the snitch and deletes his police identity.

Climax

Desperate, Billy captures Colin. Before he can get Colin to the police, another cop/rat for Frank kills Billy. To protect his police identity, Colin kills the other rat.

Finale

Billy is given a hero’s burial and is awarded the Medal of Merit When Colin walks into his home, Dignam is there, waiting for him. He shoots Colin in the head and walks away.

The Departed Protagonists

The Departed has two Protagonists

In The Departed plot, one would assume that Billy is the protagonist and Colin is the antagonist. While that is not entirely wrong, it’s exactly right either. The Departed script is a tale of two protagonists working against each other, with their primary antagonist being Frank.

Billy and Colin are goal driven characters whose stories mirror each other. Billy is a cop that wants to do the right thing. He goes undercover, risking his life to infiltrate Frank’s gang. Colin is a mobster that wants to do right by his father figure, so he becomes a cop to protect Frank. The catalyst for both characters questioning their identities revolves around the same person, Madolyn.

When Billy is reaching his psychological breaking point, he reaches out to Madolyn. We added The Departed script to the StudioBinder screenwriting software so we could isolate and dissect the various elements.

Billy Makes a Human Connection  •  Read Full Scene

Desperate for human connection with someone that isn’t a murderous psychopath, Billy reaches out to Madolyn. She becomes more than his therapist, she becomes his lover. This in turn makes her his one connection to the normal world. Billy refuses to give up, despite his suffering, because of Madolyn.

Colin, who is also dating Madolyn, finds her to be his one chance at a normal life as well. He loves her enough to have her move in with him. Frank knows this, which is why he uses this against Colin.

Frank Threatens Madolyn  •  Read Full Scene

This is the moment when Colin begins to see that Frank is using him. The woman he loves is threatened by his supposed father figure. From this point forward, Colin and Frank struggle to get along, leading to an inevitable confrontation.

 This video shows the many parallels of Billy and Colin.

The Departed-Strength of Street Knowledge

Finally, both Billy and Colin grow as characters by the end of The Departed script. Billy is constantly doubting whether or not he has the fortitude to see this mission through to the end. When Captain Queenan is killed and his cover is nearly blown, he is tempted to run away. Instead, he calls Colin and arranges for Frank's apprehension and demise. Colin changes when he finds out Frank is an FBI informant. Fearing Frank will give him up to the feds, Colin kills Frank Costello himself. He is no longer under the oppressive rule of his father figure.

The Departed Quotes

The Departed Quotes

The Departed script is full of great quotes and dialogue. One of the most memorable and marketed lines comes from Billy when he says “What, are you waiting for him to chop me up and feed me to the poor?”

It’s not just a well written line, but it is a pivotal moment for Billy in the story.

Billy’s Famous Line  •  Read Full Scene

Billy reaches out to Queenan and Digam, desperate to get out. How do they not have enough evidence to build a case against Frank Costello? This line signifies how chaotic the situation is. Billy, Queenan and Dignam know something wrong, so they can’t pull out Billy yet. Their inability to maintain control will lead to their eventual downfall.

The Departed  •  Someone Else Every Day

Most of The Departed characters have something great to say. Here are some other great The Departed quotes:

  • “I don’t want to be a product of my environment. I want my environment to be a product of me.
  • Do you want to be a cop or only look like a cop?
  • “When I was your age, they would say, we become cops or criminals. Today what I'm saying to you is this: When you are facing a loaded gun, what's the difference?”
  • “I’m the guy who does his job. You must be the other guy.”
  • “You learn a lot watching things eat.”
  • “My theory on Feds is they're like mushrooms. Feed 'em shit and keep in the dark.”
  • “I am killing you.”

The Departed Ending

The Departed has a Dark Ending

The Departed script is a tragic story. By the time you read the final page, everyone is either dead, disgraced or depressed.

Billy’s arc comes to an end when he is killed by a second rat in the police. All of his sacrifice and suffering brought about the death of Frank, but he never had a chance to live a normal life. Despite being honored as a hero, his accolades feel empty in the wake of his death.

The Departed Ending  •  Read Full Scene

Colin seemingly gets away with literal murder. However, when Madolyn finds out that he is a rat, their relationship ends immediately. Colin meets and untimely demise when Dignam ambushes him in his own home. The final image is of a rat, standing near “the rat.”

The Departed  •  Final Scene

UP NEXT

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The Departed is a modern story of mobsters, police and murder. It’s a popular dramatic genre that always seems to have a place in cinemas. If you want to continue reading screenplays, we have similar titles like The Godfather, The Irishman , and Joker in our screenplay database. Browse and download PDFs for all of our scripts as you read, write and practice your craft to become the next great screenwriter.

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