Sunday, March 14, 2010

Shutter Island (2010)


U.S. Marshall Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his partner Chuck (Mark Ruffalo) investigate the disappearance of a patient at a secluded institute for the criminally insane.

As is the case with all Scorsese films, I often find reviewing them to lean heavy on the hard side. Shutter Island is a capable mystery thriller, with great performances, and some amazing direction, but it always weighed towards the just good side of things. It's the sort of film that plays off of subtle gestures and quick cuts to keep you on your feet. It plays with continuity errors, and mental stability. Basically, Shutter Island from the very get go begs you to doubt it.

Pulling you in with a powerful lead performance from DiCaprio, who is just getting better and better, and a supporting cast to die for. If you were to make a list of underappreciated supporting players, Shutter Island could easily be a starting template with the likes of Ruffalo, Von Sydow, Michelle Williams, Emily Mortimer, Patricia Clarkson, Jackie Earl Haley, Ben Kingsley, and so on and so forth. Really, Scorsese's casting director outdid themselves with this work of casting art.

Still Shutter Island for all it's grand direction, and awesome musical tone, is a movie about the writing. The story to be more frank. If you've seen a trailer for the film you know it's got the twist. And while I appreciate it, I have to admit it's painfully obvious. What good twist films do is give you reason to doubt it, or no reason to believe there is one. And while I see Shutter Island tries that, I just never bought the misdirection. You compound that with direction meant to keep you on your feet, wondering what the twist is, and you have one that adds great character layer, but not much shock.

Still, it's in that character layer that Shutter Island stands out. The attention paid to the development of the Teddy Daniels character, is just superb. Scorsese really knows how to get everything out of a scene, and DiCaprio knows how to breath life into a character. The combination of which brings Shutter Island to life in an inescapably dynamic fashion. It's no wonder audiences have attached themselves too it, and I don't much blame them.

While I wouldn't call it the greatest twist, or film for that matter, in the canon of any of those involved, Shutter Island is a gripping, and intriguing thriller, that hits the right beats, just perhaps not quite hard enough.

7 better thoughts:

The Mad Hatter said...

Hey...what gives? This isn't by Kurosawa...

Univarn said...

@Mad If I didn't review it now I wouldn't for 2 weeks and nobody would care by then, and I would probably forget to review it entirely. Figure some people might want a break. Besides I've still got another Kurosawa review today :)

Castor said...

Great review Univarn. I agree that we all know a twist is coming but the fun part is seeing how the characters get there.

filmgeek said...

This is one of my most anticipated films of the year and I can't wait to see it. I am a massive fan of Leonardo DiCaprio, Michelle Williams, Mark Ruffalo and Patricia Clarkson so the cast is a massive draw for me but the fact that it is directed by Scorsese practically makes it a dream movie. It was supposed to be released 'nationwide' in the UK on Friday so hopefully it will crawl down to my hometown in a week or two

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

You're right for the most part. Excellent film, the twist not so much. But I blame Lehane for that, it's his story. Nevertheless,
I read this very interesting piece over at IMDB. It changed my entire perspective. READ IT.

Univarn said...

@Castor thanks! Yeah the journey is what matters, but I can't say I was 100% on this one's.

@filmgeek I'm sure you'll highly enjoy it, hope it gets there soon!

@Andrew It's not a bad post, but I think a lot of his hypotheses can be easily explained determining on your point of view. But that's what makes these movies fun, the debating they allow.

The Floating Red Couch said...

I was totally taken aback by some of the disjointed editing and way surreal settings. At first I thought I'd have to call bullshit on the whole damn thing, until I truly thought about it and figured there had to be something to it (one cut in particular -- the axe murderer when she's being interviewed, asks for a glass of water. When Ruffalo brings it, we cut to a CU of her "drinking" with no glass in her hand, reverse to her setting a glass down ont he table).

I really enjoy4edf htis, will probably watch many times over and over again.

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