Written by: Kit Bowen, Special to CC2K
Having Scorsese behind the camera enhances this sometimes annoying thriller.
Director Martin Scorsese uses his Shutter Island to mess with your brain – on all levels – and mostly succeeds in his endeavor, whether you like it or not.
Based on the novel by Dennis Lehane, Shutter Island zeroes in on Federal Marshal Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio), who – when the film opens – is on his way to Boston's Ashecliffe Hospital, a facility for the criminally insane, located on a remote island off the New England coastline. A patient has gone missing, so Daniels and his new partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) are sent in to investigate. Except when they get there, everything immediately seems wonky – from the harsh terrain to the mysterious doctors to the hard-ass guards to the creepy crazies skulking around. Trying to put the pieces together, Daniels soon believes the facility may somehow be involved in a government conspiracy, all while being haunted himself by horrible walking nightmares from his tragic past. He'd better solve this thing fast, so he can get off this god-forsaken rock – or suffer the consequences.
Scorsese once again guides his muse DiCaprio in another excellent performance, as the beleaguered Marshal, trying to solve a case while being chased by his own horrifying demons. The character has had some tough times, and DiCaprio expertly carries all the heartache on his shoulders. Daniels is really such a sad man. The rest of the cast also supports him beautifully, including: Ben Kingsley and Max von Sydow, as the hospital's good doctor/bad doctor duo; Ruffalo as the almost too-understanding partner; Michelle Williams as Daniels' lost wife; and brief but memorable appearances from Emily Mortimer, Patricia Clarkson, Jackie Earle Hayley and Ted Levine.
Of course, Shutter Island's real draw is Scorsese's skillful direction. His choices are mostly masterful but sometimes slightly annoying. For example, the director has a thing for playing up the soundtrack in scenes, to enhance the psychological tension and drama, I suppose – something he also did with Cape Fear – but it's more distracting than anything else. Shutter Island also drags a little in its pacing, but once Scorsese twists the screws and peels the layers back, you're completely engrossed and horrified by the proceedings. It also has a lot to do with Lehane's original narrative. Like his other similar themed books Mystic River and Gone Baby Gone, Shutter Island deals with violence against children in a deep-seated, personal way. One has to wonder what the hell happened to Lehane when he was a kid to make him keep writing about it. The creepy Shutter Island will still stick with you long after its ended.
Kit Bowen is an entertainment journalist and movie critic. She was formerly the Managing Editor for Hollywood.com and currently blogs for her site TheMovieKit.com.