Shutter Island

February 23, 2010
Martin Scorsese is a big name in cinema, whether you like him or not. He's directed a variety of different styles of film, from mobster movies (Goodfellas) to biographical films (The Aviator) to elaborate character studies (Taxi Driver), all of which gave Scorsese the status he has today. I'm not a huge fan of Scorsese myself, but I do agree that he's a very fine director. His latest film, Shutter Island, is another venture into new territory for Scorsese. Based on the novel by Dennis Lehane, Shutter Island is a mixture of classic noir along with elements of the horror genre. An interesting mixture, to say the least.

The film follows two federal marshals, Teddy and Chuck, as they investigate the disappearance of a patient from a hospital for the criminally insane. As the hospital is located on an island, which is 16 miles from the mainland, it's virtually impossible that she's left the island, as the ferries that travel to and from the island are controlled by the hospital's chief administrator - Dr. John Cawley. The investigation starts out simple enough, but events begin to grow far more sinister as the marshal duo begin to discover some of Shutter Island's darker secrets.

The atmosphere of this film is just fantastic, with the visuals supporting the dark and cryptic feeling these characters, and the island, give off to the audience. There's never a moment where things seem at ease and peaceful, as paranoia and distrust surround the mood of the film just as the mists surround Shutter Island. Teddy, our main character, voices his feelings on this atmosphere several times, insisting that you can't trust anyone on the island.

As I said before, the visuals are just great in this film. It's dark, foreboding, mysterious, creepy - etc. and so forth. It really brings together that mixture of noir and horror the film promises. There aren't too many scenes that I'd describe as 'horror', but the tension and mystery more than make up for it. The entire film is visually-pleasing, but I'd have to say that Teddy's nightmares stand out as the most visually-striking. For Teddy actually has a few secrets of his own, ones which he doesn't share with any of the characters at first. Still, these nightmare sequences are even darker than the rest of the film, some even being a tad unsettling.

That being said, I did have some problems with Scorsese's latest outing. Firstly, while I liked all of the characters and performances, there are very few, if any, characters that really stand out in Shutter Island. For instance, I loved the character of Teddy and all, plus I thought DeCaprio put on a great performance, but he never really stood out as a great character. He felt more like a pawn for the film's plot, which can be said about every character in this film, really.

Nextly, there are some events in this film that either feel like deus-ex-machina or feel like they're just there for exposition. The first example that comes to mind would be the scene of Teddy and Chuck in the cemetery, and how it "all of sudden" starts raining insanely hard, to the point where the two seek shelter in a nearby tomb. I won't give away any spoilers, but it felt like it started raining just so that those two characters could talk. Another example would be Teddy's first nightmare sequence. While the later nightmares actually felt like nightmares, this felt like an exposition to move the plot along, plus use a cheap introduction to a character in Teddy's life.

I did love the ending, though. It may feel deceptive, at first, but the more thought one puts into it, the more one can see how ambiguous and thematically satisfying it is. I'd be insane to give away the ending, though, so I can't say too much other than that. It's really quite interesting, though.

While Shutter Island doesn't have strong characters, its mysterious plot and strong visuals/atmosphere make up for it. The dark atmosphere really pulls you in, and the questions raised by the film will keep you thinking long after the credits have rolled. The film may not match up to Scorsese's greater stuff, but this narrative of paranoia and the erosion of sanity is still really good.

7.5/10 - Good

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LaylaViolet said...
Mar. 9, 2010 at 3:57 pm
I haven't seen the movie yet, but you make it sound good. DeCaprio does seem less child-looking in the film, but who is the film about exactly?
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