“Shutter Island” – Martin Scorcese’s first film of the new decade – is a trickier plot to grasp than audiences might anticipate.
The film combines modern-day filmmaking with many scenes that pay homage to others like the 1963 movie “Shock Corridor.”
Despite some writing and pacing missteps, “Shutter Island” offers an intriguing mystery that will appeal to both Scorcese-auteur dedicates and casual moviegoers.
Set in 1954 America, the film opens with U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) hunched over with seasickness and a pained expression as he urges himself to snap out of it. This type of distraught intensity guides Teddy’s actions throughout the movie.
He and his newly assigned partner (Mark Ruffalo) are called to Shutter Island, a remote Massachusetts isle with a mental institution for the criminally insane, to investigate a female patient’s disappearance from the perimeters.
However, the island’s treacherous terrain and hurricane-like weather suggest that her escape would have been nearly impossible.
Initially, “Shutter Island” plays out like a straightforward police procedural, yet anything is fair game once Teddy starts to see his dead wife (Michelle Williams) in tormented waking nightmares.
Before questioning his own chances of leaving Shutter Island, Teddy begins to doubt the integrity of Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley) and Dr. Naehling (Max von Sydow) as well as the patients’ treatment.
Hallucinations, flashbacks, and characters’ questionable motives propel the film into a hazy series of events.
This Scorcese film is most like his 1991 Cape Fear remake – another mainstream but deeply artistic genre piece in which the setting surrounds a body of water.
One of the film’s strongest aspects is its art direction.
Even when the script-adapted from a 2003 Dennis Lehane novel-often feels inconsistent, the film establishes a steady atmosphere through flickering lights, damaging rainstorms and bright-red gashes.
Commercials that seem to be advertising “Shutter Island” as a high-profile horror-thriller are not exactly accurate.
It only contains one truly frightening scene, in which Teddy navigates through the dangerous Ward C labyrinth of corroded cells.
Scorcese creates a constant sense of unease during the scene as the film grows a little insane and incomprehensible.
The ending is far less of a whodunit and more of a further demonstration of how reality does not always match one’s perceptions.
DiCaprio’s fiery and unnerved acting in the film’s ending might be his best performance.
The rest of the cast is solid as well. Characters who appear in only one scene are played by Oscar-nominated actors, including Patricia Clarkson and Jackie Earl Haley.
If viewers can overlook some erratic editing and other minor flaws, “Shutter Island” constitutes another curious and worthy addition to Scorcese’s collection of already monumental works.