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Shutter Island

Movie Review: Shutter Island (2010)

If you have no idea what kind of film you’ll be watching when you go and see Shutter Island, you’ll be in for a treat. Set in 1954, U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his newly appointed partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) are assigned to investigate the disappearance of a murderess (Emily Mortimer) who escaped from an asylum for the criminally insane on the mysterious Shutter Island. Also starring Ben Kingsley, Max von Sydow, Michelle Williams, Patricia Clarkson, Jackie Earle Haley, Ted Levine and John Carroll Lynch, Director Martin Scorsese should appeal to more than just his fans with his long awaited Thriller-Mystery hybrid.

As we’re introduced to a boat coming through the fog to the tortured chords of the opening music, it’s apparent what the rest of Shutter Island will be like. Academy Award winning Cimentographer Robert Richardson sets the melancholic and somewhat depressing mood, making sure that that this island radiates a bleak and colourless atmosphere for miles around.

I had confidence in all of the actor’s abilities, and I wasn’t let down. Leonardo DiCaprio’s acting gets increasingly better as the film wears on, and Mark Ruffalo was surprisingly good for what he had to do. Mega-versatile Ben Kingsley was unique as Dr. Crawley, Max von Sydow was perfect for the ageing Dr. Naehring, and Ted Levine played intimidating in his fairly brief appearance as the Warden.

To talk about the plot without revealing any major plot points will be a challenge, but I will do my best. When I first looked at the premise, then compared it to the runtime, I wondered how Scorsese would do it. Well, the trailer doesn’t give a whole lot away. Laeta Kalogridis adapts Dennis Lehane’s novel into a great screenplay, one which translated very well onto the screen. The whole of Lehane’s plot was excellent, and anybody who criticises Shutter Island for being predictable has either read the book or has no idea what they are talking about, because the twist comes as a real shock.

Shutter Island is, I suppose, easy viewing, but requires some level of concentration to take everything in and appreciate the bigger picture. The flashbacks to Teddy fighting in World War II may seem rather pointless, as will his dreams about his deceased wife, but they are both pivotal to the puzzle, which comes together in the final 30 minutes. The 108 minutes before that will rush past.

Martin Scorsese, commonly associated with his beloved Gangster genre, has another go at a Horror/Thriller (although Shutter Island falls more into the latter genre), his last attempt being the 1991 remake of Cape Fear. I could see that Scorsese’s inspiration for Shutter Island was definitely Hitchcock. He uses combinations of sweeping and rotating shots, close ups and, along with Cinematographer Robert Richardson, arouses fear in his use of lighting. Shutter Island only offers a few good scares, instead mostly falling into a habit of building up tension and suspense to get the heart racing.

If you’ve read that Shutter Island is slow, then read the opinions of those who think differently to gather a better understanding. Simply because there isn’t the usual Scorsese profanities and violence throughout, it doesn’t mean that it gets boring in parts. It seems like a lot of time is taken to establish the premise, character relationships, settings and the mood, but all of this is highly interesting as things start to get turned on their heads.

If you are crazy for Scorsese, there is no guarantee that Shutter Island will be your cup of tea, since it’s really an opportunity for him to try a different look. Said look is that of a very well-rounded, complex, multi-layered and rather dim piece of cinema. For many, the best part will be when everything clicks in the brain, but the ending may leave some points to be cleared up and more explanation to be desired, but it’s all about the interpretation.