Shutter Island

“Shutter Island” Review


Leonardo DiCaprio………….Teddy Daniels
Mark Ruffalo………………….Chuck Aule
Ben Kingsley…………………Dr. John Cawley
Max von Sydow………………Dr. Jeremiah Naehring


Director………………………Martin Scorsese
Producer……………………..Dennis Lehane
Writers………………………..Laeta Kalogridis and Dennis Lehane

What a combination they are. DiCaprio. Scorsese. Gangs Of New York. The Aviator. The Departed. All fantastic movies, especially the last one. And they reunited again in 2010 with the thriller, “Shutter Island”.

‘Shutter Island’ is no ordinary movie. On the surface, it may seem like there is nothing spectacular about it. But, like they say, never judge a book by its cover. Only once you delve into this thrilling movie will you know just how spectacular it is.

This film is set in 1954, and is about two U.S. Marshals, Teddy Daniels (DiCaprio), and Chuck Aule (Ruffalo), who come to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a murderer from a hospital for the criminally insane, on the remote Shutter Island. Oh, and she escaped while her cell doors were locked, in a ward that was locked, in a fortress with walls which could withstand cannon fire, on an island several miles away from civilization, with tons of ice-cold water surrounding it. That too, in the middle of a ferocious hurricane. And she left her shoes. Interesting? I believe so.

From the moment the opening sequence rolls, we get a feeling of gloom. The soundtrack accompanies this movie brilliantly, not overshadowing the film itself, but adding to it just perfectly to bring about a sense of forlorn dread and dismay. And from the moment we step on to the island, we can feel that there seems to be something off about it. The correctional officers at every corner, all with loaded guns, the electric fencing, the towering walls, it all adds to the feeling of dread. Even the seemingly cheery deputy warden feels as though he’s holding something back. In other words, it is ‘film noir’ at its height.

To further add to this feeling, we meet the two doctors in charge of the facility: Dr. Cawley (Kingsley) and a little later, Dr. Naehring (von Sydow). In particular, Kingsley’s character is the one who gives us the feeling of insecurity, and uptightness. The latter, Dr. Naehring, is much more straightforward as far as his traits go. His emotionless look gives away the menace inside him, which actually makes his character quietly terrifying. Scorsese does a great job of making all these elements combine to give us the sense that something sinister is happening on this island.

In terms of character development, Scorsese chips away at the protagonist in little bits and pieces; these bits and pieces generally consist of flashbacks into his traumatic work in the army during World War II. He slowly but surely peels layer after layer off of Daniels’ character, and all of it using the simple technique of flashbacks. The more we see these flashbacks, the more we start to get confused, and we will remain this way until the film’s chilling conclusion.

In terms of story, this one is full of ups and downs, twists and turns. Every time we see the protagonist have a personal triumph, the film uncovers something new to oppose the fleeting victory. And this is how Scorsese brings forward the plot. The story throws at us a string of questions? How did the woman escape? Why do the doctors seem like they are concealing something? Why does this facility give Daniels flashbacks? And all of these questions are answered in one fell swoop near the very end of the movie. And if you thought the film was over there, you would be wrong, because Scorsese gives us one final twist at the end of the final scene. And that last line gives us an insight into Daniels’ mind, one final insight before the film closes.

And when the ending credits roll, you will probably find yourself not moving, not getting up, not changing the channel or ejecting the DVD, for at least a few seconds. You will probably ponder what exactly happened in this movie for a few days. At least, that’s what I did. What did the ending mean? The question went through my mind for quite a while.

For some people, this movie might be best on first viewing. In my opinion, the second time I watched this, it became even better. I knew what was going to happen, what the ending was, and the fact that I still went though movie’s 140-minute runtime is a tribute to Scorsese’s class, and the masterpiece he has created. I discovered many nooks and crannies to the story that I otherwise wouldn’t have if I didn’t watch it a second time, and it made the story even better.

Martin Scorsese has created something different, and not something perfect. For sure, this movie isn’t perfect. It lacks certain elements, but that’s what makes it so good. It leaves a lot to the viewer. You can look at it wonder about the ifs and the maybes for a long time, and it makes you think. Scorsese hasn’t tried to close ever story or tie up every loose end, and yet the story seems wholly satisfying, while still leaving room for us to think about some of the things that weren’t shown.

This film is several layers deep, though it won’t feel like it on first viewing. Though it doesn’t require a lot of brain to watch, it does however require a lot of thinking to fully understand the movie. By no means have I understood it completely, and yet I say that this is a great movie. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys a movie which isn’t one-dimensional, and I would rate it as one of the better movies I have ever watched.