Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Cost of Island Destination Is Sheer Insanity

Shutter Island

Last month I did a top 5 post on the best and worst Martin Scorsese films. Needless to say the post received a lot of passionate feedback. Andrew at Encore’s World of Film and TV even labelled me a heretic, a badge I wear proudly mind you, for even suggesting that Scorsese has ever made a bad  film. Having stirred the pot once already, the sensible thing would be ease off Scorsese for a while; luckily common sense was never one of my strong points.

The year is 1954, U.S. Marshall Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) are sent to the notorious Shutter Island institution to investigate the disappearance of a patient. Stranded on the island, due to a terrible storm, Teddy begins to get headaches as he drifts in and out of hallucinations. As Teddy struggles with his sanity, he begins to question what type of experiments Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley) and Dr. Naehring (Max von Sydow) are conducting on the Shutter Island.

Let me just get this out of the way first, the last act of this film is ridiculous. Actually, it is more the aspects of the “reveal” rather than the cause it. I do not want to give away any spoilers so I will try to keep my annoyances brief. I will merely say that I found it highly unlikely that a facility like Shutter Island, which is home to some of the most dangerous and damaged patients, would allow such a free roaming environment. This is especially preposterous when you factor in the violent nature of certain patients.

The “reveal” aside, I must say that I was pleasantly surprised by the majority of Shutter Island. Martin Scorsese did a great job of maintaining the atmosphere, the best part of the film, and the overall suspense for the first 2/3 of the picture. The eeriness of the art direction kept me hooked the entire way through. The film could have used a little tighter editing, as it does run a bit long, but this is a minor quibble. Especially when you look at how wonderful the performances are during the course of the film.

The standout performances for me are those of Leonardo DiCaprio and Michelle Williams. There scenes together were fantastic, only Dicaprio’s scene during the war came close to rivalling their husband and wife moments. I also thought the large supporting cast, which included Emily Mortimer, Patricia Clarkson, Jackie Earle Haley, and Elias Koteas, did a terrific job of maintaining the level of tension. Normally I find it a bit distracting when I film such as this has so many high profile cameos. Yet none of the cameos felt out of place. Again, if it was not for the silly explanation that Martin Scorsese offers up in the last act, Shutter Island could have been a great movie. Still, the film is worth seeing for the first two acts alone.


  1. I, too, enjoyed this movie. The twist was so obvious it renewed itself, surprising us in its cliche-edness. Or me, at least.

  2. I agree that the cameos worked well in the film.

    I remember hearing a lot of complaints about how the film's pace (slow as it already was...in the good sense however) often stopped completely so characters could sit down and talk about what was going on. I did fin this to be a bit of a problem, but I still had enough fun with 'Shutter Island.'

  3. @Simon - The twist was obvious but I like how the flashback explained it. I just wish the "Island" explaination was not so far fetched

    @Edgar - I can see how some would have those complaints. There are a few character's that could have been cut altogether.

  4. Brilliant movie. Whether the twist surprises you or not (I saw it opening night and had no clue) I think how well the story is structured, the compelling characters, and the lovely mood is what really grips you anyway. Probably my favorite movie of the year so far. At least a strong competitor.

  5. @Heather - I had an idea of what the twist might be, but I did not expect the reasoning for it. I agree that the well developed characters and the mood are what keep you hooked. Not quite my favourite of the year but it is high on the list.


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