Notable Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Michelle Williams, Emily Mortimer, Jackie Earle Haley, John Carroll Lynch
Review: Shutter Island was the first big movie of the year I was really looking forward to. Any Scorsese film for that matter is worth getting excited over, especially when he’s teaming up with Leo again who is turning into a regular player in his movies. This also marks Scorsese’s return to the horror/thriller genre since he made Cape Fear back in 1991. So was it worth the hype? While not being Scorsese’s best film ever, he created a great mind-bending picture in the style of the old film noir movies of the 1940’s and 1950’s. There were a lot of mixed reviews from what I heard and read, but after seeing Shutter Island for myself you can count me in as a supporter of this film.
The story centers around Teddy Daniels (DiCaprio) and his partner Chuck Aule (Ruffalo), who are Federal Marshals sent to the infamous Shutter Island. The island is used as a maximum security insanity asylum, but for dangerous criminals only. Teddy and Chuck are sent to the island to investigate the escape of one of the more dangerous criminals, and deem the asylum safe again. They arrive via boat and are immediately shown around by Deputy Warden McPherson (Lynch), who introduces them to the head of the entire program, Dr. Cawley (Kingsley). When the marshals are curiously met with little cooperation and hints of hostility from the staff at Shutter Island, Teddy and Chuck start to get suspicious of the program that is really being run by the doctors. They’re told the objective is to try to heal the criminals using psychiatric methods, but Teddy starts to think that experiments are being done on the criminals for reasons the government does not want getting out. As his theories get wilder, the duo get more and more involved with the happenings on the island. But is Teddy’s paranoia with good reasoning? Or is the island and it’s surroundings just playing with Teddy’s mind.
Shutter Island was a psychological thriller that manages to get into your head and has you thinking the entire time. Don’t let the advertisements fool you though. This movie got pushed hardcore to look like a horror movie with plenty of scares, but not once did I jump out of my seat. Or even get a little bit spooked for that matter. If you’re going into this film for a good scare, you’re going to be sadly let down. This isn’t a bad thing of course though, because it was a very well done mental thriller. It didn’t bother me one bit that it wasn’t scary, it was just not totally what I was expecting. It was a little bit on the predictable side, but based on the fact that I had to explain the ending to one of my friends and explain why I was right, I say Scorsese really created an intricate plot with even some room for interpretation. It lets the viewer believe whatever they want, which is a good quality sometimes. It’s fair to say if you’re still thinking of a movie after you’ve seen it out of pure interest and intrigue, than the director did something right. How many movies have you seen that two seconds after the ending you aren’t even talking about it? The good movies are the ones you discuss the entire car ride home.
The acting was phenomenal in Shutter Island, which helped give the movie a lot of credibility. Leo was great as usual, Ruffalo was a solid partner, but I absolutely loved the creepy intensity that Kingsley brought to the head psychiatrist, Dr. Crawley. The way how he sweet talks Teddy and is able to always keep him guessing shows just how intelligent he is. Using nothing but words, he is able to play with the marshals minds as only an experienced professional can. He’s always the place where Teddy doesn’t want him to be, and poses the biggest threat to Teddy’s investigation because Crawley wants Teddy and Chuck to follow his protocol and only answer to him. Kingsley is so coy and innocent in his delivery that you always question him, and it could only have acted this well by an experienced actor like Kingsley himself. Not to take away from Leo’s work as Teddy though, getting himself immersed in the part. Teddy has to deal with a lot of inner problems along the way, and Leo really knows how to convey the emotions that Teddy is feeling to the viewer. We can sense just how bad he is feeling at certain moments and how it affects his job at certain points. You can even see physically how the character is effected, and Leo goes the whole nine yards, whether it’s shaking or screaming on-screen to make his part believable.
I really liked the psychological aspects here that turn this crime drama into a better thriller. They reminded me of Memento in a way that a movie can throw you twists and turns at you to keep your head spinning. But not in a bad way, in a way that is immensely intriguing instead of annoyingly bothersome. The intelligence of the complicated plot is much more rewarding than just a genetic cookie cutter story. You’re on the edge of your seat watching as the story unfolds in front of you waiting to see what can happen next, instead of just a regular straight-forward story telling method. It also held its completely eerie atmosphere for the whole movie, which helped add to the mystery of the island. The setting of the mental institution was a creepy enough place to being with, and Scorsese uses tools like the score of the film and the weather to add to the creepiness that we feel towards places like mental institutions. There were a few moments where I was staring at the screen, utterly confused, but reaching the end of the film made everything worth it. It pulls everything together so nicely, just like someone would get a sense of accomplishment after fitting together all the pieces of a puzzle.
The crime, the mystery, the suspense; Shutter Island is a great thriller. DiCaprio and Kinglsey give above average performances and create characters that command the screen and are important in conveying the story. Sure I can see how some people could get lost in the story and lose a some interest, but those patient enough to last the whole movie with surely be rewarded. Also, some movies you can really feel their length, and Shutter Island is about 2 hours and 20 minutes. This movie does not fly by at all and you feel every single minute of it. But thankfully, I also enjoyed every single minute of the film and couldn’t be bothered by the length of the film. Only Scorsese could keep my attention for that long and actually have me realize it. Shutter Island may not be Martin’s best work like I said, but it’s a pretty damn good movie to add to his resume. It’s sad that a man who is so successful can have a movie this good, and yet have it still sit in the shadows of his other masterpieces he has delivered already. Don’t let it fool you when you hear it isn’t his best. Even a mediocre work for Scorsese today is way better than some of the best stuff these hack directors put out. (I die a little each time I hear they are making another Epic Movie sequel.)
Final Rating: 8 crazy plot twists out of 10