After Matt Damon's character in The Departed graduates the state police academy, he is picked up by Costello ("no more pencils, no more books"), and given a box as a graduation present. Though what is contained in the box is never identified, what are some probable theories as to the box's contents?

  • It is nothing specific, you decide what is in the box. Sometimes a director doesn't spoon feed every detail. I like the badge answer, it makes a lot of sense.
    – user21470
    May 23, 2015 at 19:19
  • I think a watch for some reason too (cliche i guess) after a few viewings i kinda thought it was the knife, only thing is its not that amazing a knife and doesn't seem like a gift so much as something he bought himself. idk i guess its just up to the viewer.
    – user23676
    Aug 6, 2015 at 11:46

4 Answers 4


The box is a pure Macguffin.

I've heard some theorize it contained the mobile phone he would go on to use, but I doubt this.

Another theory is that it contains money, or at least something valuable to help him get started up - hence why Costello tells him he's earned it.

Having said that, my own theory is that it is just something personal to Sullivan. It doesn't really matter what it is, just that it is something personal which evokes emotion from Sullivan and effectively further establishes the father-son dynamic between Sullivan and Costello for the viewer.

You might be interested to read the script for more information. It goes out of its way to point out that the box could contain anything:

COLIN walks over to the car. COSTELLO gives COLIN a BOX. COLIN flips open the top and then quickly closes it. NOTE: The box could contain an eyeball, money, drugs, a picture of Colin fucking his school teacher...we will never know.

COSTELLO School's out. You earned it. Yeah, no more teachers, no more books.


It doesn't matter what was in the box. What matters is that Sullivan became a cop moments earlier, and is already accepting gifts from a known criminal. He's fresh out of the academy and has already sold his soul to the devil.

  • 1
    He "sold his soul to the devil" long before he became a statie. Costello had been mentoring Colin to advance his ventures since Colin was a kid, as shown in the movie's intro. Costello wanted Colin to join the State Police so he'd have a man on the inside, as evidenced by Colin being in a position to warn him that phones were being used to track those involved in a suspected deal to sell computer chips to the Chinese. "School's out," because Colin made it into the department like Costello wanted, and his real work was just beginning.
    – MattD
    Feb 9, 2015 at 15:53

whats in the box is the knife, same knife that he kills the asian in the back street with

  • 2
    Welcome to Movies & TV. Can you provide any sources or proofs to back this claim?
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Apr 1, 2015 at 14:28

I think it's his detective badge because next scene is him walking to the police plaza as a detective.

  • 3
    How would Costello, a gangster, have gotten ahold of the badge? Apr 28, 2015 at 20:34
  • @JohnnyBones magic! Aug 28, 2022 at 19:10

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