The horrors of the September 11, 2001 attacks left such a massive impact on American culture that it was inevitable that the country’s filmmakers would respond to the new status quo through their work. For instance, Steven Spielberg’s post-9/11 movies have been widely interpreted as offering commentary on the new world America was navigating. Similarly, fellow iconic filmmaker Martin Scorsese offered his own perspective on a post-9/11 world with The Departed.
Writing for RogerEbert.com, Niles Schwartz observed that The Departed’s “mid-film blue sky rooftop murder…with its flabbergasted police radio babble, echoes the horror and confusion of 9/11.” Meanwhile, Andrew Sarris of The Observer saw the influence of 9/11 in The Departed in more than just one scene. To Sarris, The Departed carries “an atmosphere of perpetual paranoia so characteristic of our post-9/11 world. No one can completely trust anyone else.”
Scorsese himself has opined on how The Departed reflects a post-9/11 world, particularly in regards to that final famous shot of a rat scurrying across the screen. “[The rat] also represents that for me as the film developed a sense of paranoia and betrayal and one person never knowing who the other person is,” Scorsese explained to CanMag. “It kind of reflects the world now, the America that we know now, post-September 11th.” Navigating that new world can be difficult, but films like The Departed help us to process it.