Shutter Island (2010)

Tense, disturbing, creepy and very well designed, Scorsese’s latest is a quality piece of work but sadly suffers from a saggy, elongated ending and a touch of the predictables. Despite this, it is an excellent watch.

Mental asylums for the criminally insane. Not good. Especially when one of the criminally insane prisoners goes missing. The date is 1954, and war-veteran turned U.S. Marshall Teddy Daniels (Leonardo Di Caprio) is called to Shutter Island to investigate. What he finds is incredibly suspicious – the guards are on edge, the patients tell him to run and his newly-assigned partner (Mark Ruffalo) might be more than he appears. As a tremendous storm hits the island, Teddy finds himself stuck in the asylum grounds and embroiled in a conspiracy that might cost him more than just his life… but his sanity also.

Somehow, despite a cavalcade of clichés, the sum of Shutter Island’s parts are impressive and well created. Ben Kingsley and Max von Sydow manage to portray the doctors with a sense of calm and intelligence, the patients are disturbed but not horribly over-the-top and the guards ooze a sense of menace without being obviously suspicious. It is testament to Scorsese commitment to creating a quality story, and it’s compelling and disturbing throughout.

If you dislike Di Caprio, and still think he looks like a fat child, then avoid Shutter Island. For those who recognize him as an adept, intelligent actor, then you will be impressed with his troubled, haunted portrayal of Teddy. He is a decent protagonist, dragging us through Shutter Island’s cliffs, mansions, forts and storm-battered graveyard and always keeps us interested.

There are some decent cameos throughout from the likes of Michelle Williams, Emily Mortimer, Jackie Earle Hayley and Elias Koteas. Most notable is Ted Levine’s Warden, whose speech about eating Di Caprio’s eyeball is both hilarious and incredibly concerning. For fans of irony, the serial killers from both Silence of the Lambs (Levine) and Zodiac (John Carroll Lynch) play guards in Shutter Island.

There are some incredible hallucination scenes weaved seamlessly into the story’s structure, where Teddy sees his dead wife and the harrowing memories of the Dakau concentration camp come crashing back to him. The cinematography and score are consistently excellent, lacing a sense of dread throughout that sets the audience constantly on edge.

Towards the end, Shutter Island does tip towards the inevitable predictability, and an elongated flashback scene drags immensely and feels more than a little patronizing. Perhaps it is because of the source material – Dennis Lehane’s novel of the same name – or perhaps because it is completely necessary in order for us to join the dots. It does not ruin the film, and the final scene, and the excellent final line, really makes up for it.

Shutter Island is a quality film. Constructed beautifully and menacingly throughout, the script is smart, the acting impressive and the story devoid of cliché despite its themes. It does fumble towards the end, but this is not detrimental to the impact the film makes. Excellent, disturbing, thrilling work.

Rating: ★★★★★★★★☆☆

3 Comments on “Shutter Island”

  1. Movieporch says:

    This was a decent movie with quite a few things going on. Though it is predicable and kind of on the edge or good and OK.

    • The Scullion says:

      For me it’s very much a “hindsight” movie. It was very impressive at the time, but the more I think about it, the more I realise what was quality and smart about it. I’m really keen to watch it again – the tension at times was almost unbearable, but it was so damn compelling.

  2. Rag says:

    I agree. It is well worth a watch. The twist, as all films seem to require these days, is not excessively cunning or unspottable. But this does not detract from the journey. It is another rather sedate film. Relying upon script and acting to draw you into it. But, fortunately, both are of a high enough caliber to not only carry it off, but to make you forget that not a lot has happened in the last 10 minutes.

    The grey, washed out look really adds to the bleak feel of the story. And Daniels frustration of the lack of progress and understanding is palpable.

    I used to have real problems with DiCaprio. But since seeing Blood Diamond, I have realised that he has grown into the role of a competant actor. And in this film he does not dissapoint.

    Yes, the ‘climax’ is a bit laboured and drawn out. But is not only required, but works with the pace and style of the rest of the movie. And the ultimate ending completely made up for it for me. Was he? Or wasn’t he?

    It’s not as good as Blood Diamond, but it is much better than a lot of films hitting the shelves of late.

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