Sunday, February 21, 2010


Martin Scorcese is simply in a league of his own.  He is a Master of gripping storytelling and once again, he has done it.  This this time with a considerably shorter film in Shutter Island.  The film is not his best work, but still a top-tier caliber achievement. 

Leonardo DiCaprio has very much become Scorcese's muse, starring in a string of four feature films by the director dating back to 2002's Gangs of New YorkDiCaprio plays Marshall Teddy Daniels, who at the beginning of the story is assigned to investigate a missing patient at a mental institution for the criminally insane, The Shutter Island Ashecliffe Hospital.  His wife Dolores (Michelle Williams) we learn, died in a fire at the hands of the man who is believed to be a patient at the institution.  After being made aware that the missing patient is located, he and his sidekick Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo), become suspicious to whether or not they are being framed by the hospital's administration.  They believe they have been trapped in a secret plot which would result in their being used as experimental subjects under the hospital's questionable treatment programs (i.e. inducing of hallucinations through prescription drugs, lobotomies).

Teddy perpetually wanders off in different wards of the hospital, engaging in suspense-laced encounters with patients, adding more fuel to his paranoia.  He also keeps seeing his deceased wife, who speaks to him and urges him to escape the island.  He is obsessed with a lighthouse where the most dangerous patients are housed and lobotomies are performed and keeps gravitating towards it despite being aware of imminent danger.  Ultimately the audience is left with the question, of whether this is real or if this is all in his head.

Shutter Island is driven by some superb performances and I do not need to mention how amazing DiCaprio is at the art of transformation.  As usual, he is outstanding here.   But for the supporting cast however, it is as if Scorcese had hand-delivered casting invitations to the also-ran Oscar nominees of a few years ago, deciding to give them all a deserving moment to shine here.  Patricia Clarkson, Mark Ruffalo, Michelle Williams, Emily Mortimer and Jackie Earle Haley are all fantastic actors who often are overlooked.  Their involvement in a Scorcese film will  undoubtedly increase their visibility considerably to the average movie-goer.  Sir Ben Kingsley of course needs no introduction, and he is just perfect as Dr. Cawley whom we never know whether to trust or run away from.

The story's only fault in my opinion is that it gives away too many clues early, thus by the time the story unfolds and everything is tied-up neatly, we aren't left with that "wow" feeling that comes with the element of surprise.  Otherwise, I loved the vintage colour treatment the film was given, as it added a feeling of authenticity to it all.  I was terrified, but perhaps in the end not horrified as the film's trailers had led me to expect.  Paramount Pictures' Shutter Island is now in theatres and it will keep you on the edge of your seat all the while.  Grade: A

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