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Shutter Island
Genre Mystery
Year: 2010
 
Review:

I love a good mystery/thriller… that’s why I just had to catch Shutter Island, a new Scorsese film starring Leonardo DiCaprio and based on the novel of the same title by crime/mystery writer, Dennis Lehane (Gone Baby Gone, Mystic River). DiCaprio and Scorsese are quickly becoming a Hollywood staple as Shutter Island marks the fourth DiCaprio/Scorsese pairing after Oscar contenders, Gangs of New York, The Aviator and The Departed.

The Shutter Island trailer teased us into thinking this was going to be Martin Scorsese’s first horror outing (Cape Fear doesn’t count), but it was just a clever marketing ploy to make us think he’d gone off the rails after his long-awaited Oscar. Lehane’s novels (all three of them) translate into fine films and Shutter Island could easily have been a Stephen King adaptation in the realm of The Green Mile. Scorsese’s film is still firmly planted in the crime genre, but there’s more than meets the eye in this absorbing, entertaining and unpredictable thriller.

We’re cast in the deep end as ex-WWII soldier and FBI agent, Teddy Daniels (DiCaprio) investigates the case of a missing patient on Shutter Island. The federal mental health facility is hidden from the public eye and Daniels and his partner, are sent to investigate and track down a violent escapee on Shutter Island.

It’s an intriguing premise loaded with ghostly questions that seem to draw Teddy closer and closer to the truth as he picks up on clues from patients, doctors and the island. The skeleton framework of Shutter Island is similar to The Shining in many respects. Shutter Island is segregated from normal society much like The Overlook Hotel. A young professional family man undertakes a job, only to find himself trapped by foul weather, past demons and “residents”.

Even Teddy’s premonitions and dreams echo Danny’s ability to shine, while his steadily deteriorating and alienating situation is similar to Jack Torrance’s experiences in The Shining. Lehane substitutes island for mountains, institution for hotel, US marshal for aspiring writer, hurricane for blizzard, nightmares for the shining and patients for guests… making it seem like Teddy is actually The Shining’s Danny 25 years later.

This set up may make Shutter Island seem like The Shining 2 or a Kubrick knock-off, but it still has its own sense of identity… borrowing threads from The Shining, possibly One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and even The Beach to create something new. Ben Kingsley and Mark Ruffalo add their considerable weight behind the production and it saunters along at a devilish pace, colliding into unusually long, yet intriguing dialogues as our detective hero delves deeper and deeper into the secrets of Shutter Island.

Scorsese pushes the bounds of his typical genres to include mystery and elements of fantasy with Shutter Island. This new terrain makes exploring Shutter Island compelling and refreshing for audiences used to more grounded conventional crime films from the Oscar-winning director. He’s aided by DiCaprio, whose solid performance carries the audience over into the realm of horror with hooks in reality. This balance between the real and unreal keeps the narrative taut and the audience on the edge of their seats as the mystery unravels.

Overall, Shutter Island is a solid all-rounder in all departments. The script bristles with intrigue as the puzzle shifts before the protagonist’s very eyes. The cinematography creates a sense of intrigue and dread similar to Peter Jackson’s King Kong as the island’s dark pockets are turned inside out. The parallels between the island’s security personnel and Nazi concentration camps brings a realistic chill of horror into the floorboards of this thriller, much like Apt Pupil. The performances are more than convincing and set the platform for a twist to rival films like Identity and The Sixth Sense.

Shutter Island’s only weakness is its Kubrick template (which works for and against) and its somewhat long-winded conclusion. It’s not a strictly Hollywood film and Scorsese weaves his experience into the swirling narrative, which transforms from horror/mystery to man-on-the-run thriller and back again. The story has a classic feel to it, while the underlying themes relay a real sense of tragic suffering, impending danger and urgency. Shutter Island is one of those rare films you’ll be able to watch a second time with renewed interest and a fresh perspective… all in all, something borrowed, something new.

The bottom line: Edgy.

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7.50/10 ( 2 Votes )
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