“I liked Infernal Affairs more than The Departed.”

If I was drinking something I would have splurted it out. Infernal Affairs is a very good movie, but it has a fraction of the character exploration of The Departed. Infernal Affairs is nearly pure plot with a last-second character growth spurt. But I’ve heard this from several people now, and I was having a hard time understanding this.

First off, I haven’t seen Infernal Affairs II or III yet, so I can only compare these two movies. But The Departed gave me so much more. For example, why the mole in the police force was so loyal to the gangster (I’m describing characters by their role not their names for easy comparison). Infernal Affairs gives one almost nothing; we just assume he has some history. The Departed shows us the history. How growing up in the neighbourhood brought him into contact with the Gangster who took care of his family and showed the continued relationship. The mole in the gang had even less in Infernal Affairs. He just got selected to go deep under cover and occasionally had some angst, but that simply doesn’t compare to The Departed’s version of the character. We learn his pain. The fact his father was such a well-respected, decent person even the Gangster was in awe of the man. He comes from a family of ne’er-do-wells, yet was willing to give up everything to be the true cop. I think of the anguish we see in him throughout the movie of playing the bad guy, but deep, deep down inside, he was raised better, but meanwhile the Police Mole has a charmed life of entitlement and gets the laurels for being a good cop he so doesn’t deserve.

I’ve been told Infernal Affairs II, which is a prequel, does a lot to fill in this background, and I will be renting it soon, but still. How can people think The Departed is inferior to Infernal Affairs?