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Why The Xs In The Departed Mean More Than You Think

Martin Scorsese is a name that should be nearly synonymous with the gangster film at this point. From his early days directing smaller crime films like "Mean Streets" to his triumphant success with films like "Goodfellas" and "Casino," it's clear that Martin Scorsese has essentially mastered the genre — and his work on 2006's "The Departed" is no exception.

A remake of the 2002 Hong Kong action film "Infernal Affairs," "The Departed" is a crime thriller set in Boston that follows the story of two men working for Irish mob boss Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson). Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) acts as Frank's undercover operative in the Massachusetts State Police, while Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) plays the opposite role: working undercover in Frank's crew while supplying information to the police. The entire film is an incredibly thrilling game of cat and mouse as the two men attempt to track down and expose each other, leaving plenty of other men dead in their wake.

As it happens, every single one of the major deaths in the movie is foreshadowed very early on through subtle visual cues given by Scorsese himself.

The X's mark the characters that are going to die

According to an article published in The Miami Herald shortly after the film's release, Martin Scorsese uses X's throughout the film to signal that a character is destined for death. The visual motif appears no less than 15 times throughout the film, sometimes blending in subtly with the background, and sometimes being featured prominently as a major part of the frame itself.

The multitude of ways that X's appear throughout the film is truly impressive — they appear in graffiti behind a character walking in a dark alley, in tape over the windows of a condemned building, and they even appear as walkway supports within an airport. Every appearance feels natural and rarely forced. This motif of X's is also an homage to another classic gangster film, the original "Scarface" (1932), which used the exact same visual cue to indicate whenever a character was about to die.

Each and every time they appear in "The Departed," the X's are placed beside a character who is destined to meet a gruesome demise. The incredible attention to detail put into this little motif is yet another indication of just how great a director Scorsese really is. It's worth a rewatch simply to see if you can catch them all — you can stream "The Departed," along with some of the other best thrillers, on Netflix.