"SHUTTER ISLAND" MOVIE REVIEW
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I worship at the altar of Martin Scorsese. He’s one of the few filmmakers whose rich body of work expounds on the evils of power. In “Shutter Island,” the greatest living American director investigates a different kind of power – the human mind.
Based on Dennis Lehane’s best-selling novel, “Shutter Island” is a psychological suspense thriller where the narrative unfolds on an island housing Ashecliffe Hospital, a sanatorium for the criminally insane.
Set in 1954 during the height of the Cold War, U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his new partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) have come to Shutter Island to investigate the disappearance of a patient, multiple murderess Rachel Solando (Emily Mortimer) who vanishes despite being kept in a locked cell under constant surveillance.
But when Daniels discovers a note written by Solando asking “Who is 67?,” the investigation takes a darker, sinister route. Daniels suspects conspiracies within the hospital that include disreputable medical experiments, secret wards, and questionable patient care practices. To make matters worse, there’s a hurricane bearing down on the island.
Adapted for the screen by Laeta Kalogridis (“Alexander,” “Pathfinder”), the film weaves in and out of flashbacks, hallucinations, and fantasies, and plays with time and our very notion of reality.
Grounding the film in realism is DiCaprio’s intense portrait of a World War II hero who’s also battling personal demons of his own. His dead wife Dolores (Michelle Williams) appears in his dreams to warn him of impending disasters. DiCaprio shines as his character’s psyche unravels.
Ben Kingsley also offers a memorable performance as the brilliant Dr. Cawley who hides one of the island’s biggest secrets. The cat-and-mouse mind games he plays with Daniels and Aule reveals a man of science with an extraordinary level of dedication.
The rest of the cast also provided great support. There’s the legendary Max Von Sydow who stars as Dr. Naehring, one of the hospital’s physicians. The always brilliant Patricia Clarkson also makes an appearance but my favorite among the supporting cast is Jackie Earle Haley as the mysterious George Noyce.
With “Shutter Island,” author Lehane moved away from the gritty, blue-collar Boston settings used in his previous novels “Mystic River” and “Gone Baby Gone” and traveled into the foreboding atmosphere of Boston Harbor Islands.
Scorsese radically shifted gears as he tried his hand at directing a psychological-thriller. Yet, “Shutter Island” examines the same theme the director used in “Taxi Driver.” What happens when paranoia overtakes the mind?
It’s a pleasure to see the director having fun with the thriller genre. Scorsese is a master at setting the mood of the film. According to the movie’s production notes, the director inspired his cast and crew with a series of nighttime screenings of films that touched upon the themes and styles woven through “Shutter Island.”
But the film’s biggest downfall is its very own plot mechanisms. What could have been a great character study becomes bogged down by its own narrative device. The movie’s promising narrative layers wavered in pursuit of thrills and chills. Yet, Scorsese still managed to create a riveting and involving pulp thriller.
If you haven’t read the book, please don’t pick it up until you’ve seen the film. The pleasure of watching “Shutter Island” is not knowing the movie’s twists and turns. I’m recommending the film for its acting, gripping tone, and Scorsese’s assured direction.
“Shutter Island” gets 3 insane asylum kisses
Year of Production: 2010
Country: United States