Shutter Island

2010-03-12 12:24
 
Shutter Island
 
What it's about:

It's 1954. US Marshall Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio), and his partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) are assigned to investigate the disappearance of a murdereress, Rachel Solano, from Boston's Shutter Island Ashecliffe Hospital for the criminally insane. Daniels also has personal reasons for visiting the island, and is determined to find closure to a great tragedy he suffered in the past. Soon Teddy is questioning everything about the island, particularly what psychiatrist Dr Cawley (Ben Kingsley) and his associate Dr Naehring (Max von Sydow) are really doing with the patients.

What we thought:

What you need to know about Shutter Island is that you need to know as little as possible about the plot to fully experience the twists and scares it throws at you throughout its extremely tense 138 minutes. That might seem like a long time to be sitting at the edge of your seat, but the sustained tension and gnawing mystery forms a large part of what makes this such an unmissable movie.

It's based on the best-selling novel by Massachusetts native Dennis Lehane (who also wrote Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone, as well as three episodes of seminal crime series The Wire) who is a master of spinning complex, intoxicating yarns about ordinary people caught up in crises that demands rueful reflection on humanity. Lehane is loath to give his readers a happy experience, and director Martin Scorsese skillfully weaves through the inescapable pathos of Daniels' noble quest as he tries to find a killer-patient who, as Cawley explains, seems to have disappeared into the walls.

Of course, there is much more to Shutter Island than meets the eye. There has to be. There is no logical explanation for the mysterious disappearance of Rachel Solano, because the island, with its rocky shores, is a prison unto itself. A particularly vicious storm makes it impossible for Daniels and Aule to leave the island, even as the case throws up more perplexing questions than answers and Daniels has abandoned any hope of finding Rachel. Why is Daniels having strange, contradictory dreams about his wife's death? Who is Laeddis, the man he is hunting? And what is really going on at the lighthouse that is guarded 24/7?

Trying to figure it all out is both exhausting and exhilarating, and Scorsese's miserly treatment of truth and his bold, dramatic framing of this mystery can only but recall Alfred Hitchcock. It's there in the furtive glances, the discordant, almost deafeningly obtuse score, the beautiful, treacherous island landscape that can easily kill with one misstep, that dreadful sense that you know about half as much as you did a minute before. It has all the makings of a great detective story.

A few pivotal exterior scenes in particular, that will test the nerve of anyone with the slightest fear of heights (or vermin), feel like an updated homage to Vertigo. And if any other director tried it, audible scoffs would be heard from cinemas across the globe. But Scorsese goes about it with such clarity of vision that you'll only make the connection once your heart-rate has settled.

Of course, none of this would be as effective without the enviable crop of talent assembled here. Leonardo DiCaprio continues to grow into an actor of immense power. Sure, this role may not be that much of a stretch for him (especially after his impeccable work in Revolutionary Road) but it's indeed that familiarity that we, as an audience, have with him, and he with his craft, that lands the punches and the twists with such devastating effect. Kingsley and Von Sydow get to play with audience expectations (again) without any effort.

Trust me, it's you, the viewer who will be doing all the hard work on Shutter Island. It might be an impossible task for anyone not willing to put in the effort, especially for over two hours, but as with all challenges, its worth lies in its rich rewards.


Scorsese goes Hitchcockian in this terrifying drama about a killer who mysteriously disappears from a hospital for the criminally insane.

Rob 2010/03/12 9:17 AM
I have read the book at one sitting as I could not wait to find out how it would end. Hope this does not spoil the movie for me. Dennis Lehane is a must read author.
Emmy 2010/03/12 2:42 PM
Loved the book, can't wait for the movie. I reread the book directly after I finished it just to see if knowing the plot, I could follow the telltale signs of where the story was going. A masterful book full of twists which I didn't see coming! Always said they must make it into a movie.
Peter 2010/03/13 1:20 AM
I saw the preview of the film at Arsenals website
john 2010/03/17 12:43 PM
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superb film. i have to say though (without a lie) that the noir at the beginning gave away the secret but even though i worked out what was going on at the beginning i still enjoyed it a lot. it was almost better knowing as you pick up the little things - perhaps this is scorsese's intention for the more film savvy among us! i would also suggest waiting for dvd as a large part of the audience in my screening was prone to laughing at particularly serious moments.
Mandy 2010/03/19 10:42 AM
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I am a total movie guru, and actually fell asleep during Shutter island. The twists and turns are good, but to wait 2 hours for them was not pleasant.
Dari 2010/03/23 8:39 AM
I found the movie very faithful to the book, with the added disturbing visual effect of the death camps that could be much better exploited on film. However, the book was terrifying enough in the simple retelling of the story which, with one or two simple, spare sentences. I saw the movie first then read the book over one and a half days, but even if I realized wht was going on shortly after the beginning, for me it was more about "how" Scorsese got to teh conclusion than the conclusion itself. I've heard people talk about ambiguity and two endings, but to me it was all pretty clear.
Arabia 2010/04/01 9:41 PM
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What a great suspense-filled 2hours! And very creatively made, I might add. I totally agree with the reviewer... an unmissable movie
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