Shutter Island (2010)


Directed by Martin Scorsese
Written by Laeta Kalogridis (Based on the novel by Dennis Lehane)

This is the first film of 2010 that had me excited, simply based on who was at play here. It is based on the novel by Dennis Lehane, who, while I have not read his novels, penned both Mystic River and Gone Baby Gone, film adaptations I rather enjoyed. It is directed by film legend Martin Scorsese and stars Leonardo DiCaprio, an actor I really love watching. In addition to Leo, the cast boasts such stars as Michelle Williams, Ben Kingsley, Jackie Earle Hayley and Max von Sydow. If the personnel was not enough to draw me in, the trailer was very intriguing. All factors involved, including the fact that its release got pushed back from awards season ’09, Shutter Island was something I had to see and expected to like.

While the film is not necessarily groundbreaking or a masterwork, it is very much the work of a master. Scorsese and his colleagues craft an effective psychological thriller. There may not be many scary moments, but the film remains quite unsettling at times. The tension is held throughout. Any attempt to disclose the exact story would probably fail miserably if spoilers were to be excluded, so let me just say this: U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels (DiCaprio) goes to Shutter Island, home of the mental institution/correctional facility of Ashecliffe, to investigate the escape/disappearance of a patient/prisoner. If these slashes seem too many, it is because once on the island, nothing is certain and in effect it is a race to solve the puzzle before the end of the film for both the characters and audience.

On the technical level, the film was kind of up and down. The performances were generally good, Kingsley being the best I thought, but nothing that really stood out. The look of the film was the most volatile I thought. There were some effects, angles, and especially lighting that excelled, but at times the CGI was distracting. It was not that it was necessarily bad, but it was not great and did pull me out on more than one occasion. It looked like something that probably would have been great in the early parts of the ’00 decade, in something like The Aviator. But back to the lighting, this was the best aspect of the film in my opinion. Scorsese, along with Director of Photography Robert Richardson, aid the tension of the story with tension in the visuals by setting, or better unsettling, the scene with lighting. It was definitely something that I noticed and appreciated. The editing was another thing I rather liked. At first, all the jump cuts and sudden edits seems strange and off, but once the audience is introduced to the story it seems to fit with the style of the film.

The film survives on its story. The twists and turns make it interesting and I attribute that to the source material and Lehane. The story does often fall into the method of exposition, where the story basically must explain itself. Sometimes these moments can seem tidy or forced, but for something like this they are very much necessary and I felt they were handled well. Kingsley and DiCaprio help with this. The film is entertaining, interesting, and thought provoking with its somewhat ambiguous ending, which I rather liked. All around a solid experience and a solid film.

***1/2 – Great

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