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Shutter Island

A 2010 thriller directed by Martin Scorsese.

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INTO THE DEPTHS of a Fractured Mind...Lies Denial and Guilt

  • Feb 20, 2010

The last time I remember watching a Martin Scorsese directed pure suspense thriller was some years ago with the remake of “Cape Fear”. This time around, the acclaimed director together with screenwriter Laeta Kalogridis adapts the novel “Shutter Island” for the big screen. I haven’t read the book but I can safely say (according to my research) that fans of the book will be glad to know that the book’s basic outline is intact with only one scene added to the film’s screenplay and has the main points of Dennis Lehane. The film’s release had been delayed mostly in part by the economic downturn in 2009.
1954 in the Ashecliffe Hospital for the criminally insane, a U.S. Marshal named Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his new partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) comes in from the mainland to assist in locating an escaped mental patient named Rachel. The two are welcomed by an enigmatic psychiatrist named Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley) and prodded by German doctor Nearing (Max Von Sydow) as they find themselves in a very compromising situation. There is something strange going on in Shutter Island; and Teddy is adamant in uncovering its mystery. Like the island itself, Teddy has some secrets of his own; as the arsonist who had killed his wife is supposed to be on the island but curiously there is no record of him. Teddy believes that the island is not just an asylum for the criminally insane but may indeed be the site for sinister experiments much like those performed on the Jews by Hitler’s SS. 

             Ben Kingsley in "Shutter Island."
Martin Scorsese is a great director; of this there can be no doubt. I most especially like his period movies because of the way he just brings his audience back into a certain time in the past. But honestly, as good as he is, the man isn’t perfect. While the film “Shutter Island” may not be one of his best, it is still better than most of the convoluted messes that graces the movie theaters these days. The film may be a little uneven and truth be told some of its plot mechanics and expositions are a little clumsy but Scorsese does manage to generate suspense in a dramatic fashion. It is fairly obvious the film’s structure is channeling the movies directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Most of the film revolves around the investigation of Rachel’s disappearance and later Teddy’s theories of some unknown government experiments. The film is quite interesting and despite its predictability, I found the film entertaining enough in its entirety mostly because of the performances of its cast and the way the movie is structured. 

           Ben Kingsley, Mark Ruffalo and Leonardo DiCaprio in "Shutter Island."

                                   Mark Ruffalo as Chuck Aule and Leonardo DiCaprio as Teddy Daniels in "Shutter Island."
Admittedly, some of the film’s expositions are a little messy. I rather thought that some parts of the film’s dialogue needed to be cleaned up a bit. The exchanges between Chuck and Teddy has the right formula, right mood but for some reason, I thought they were a little flat. The film plays almost like a ghost story (granted we are talking about the ghosts of the past) haunting the thoughts of our characters. There is quite a bit of dream sequences and flashbacks as we get to know Teddy’s past. His wife (enticing Michelle Williams) visits him quite a bit through visions and dreams, we also get to see his past as a soldier fighting in World War II, which explains exactly why he is reluctant to kill.
Scorsese utilizes the use of some cinematic touches that can either be seen as mere eye candy or ghastly images of the seductive nightmares. The film is just exuding with atmosphere further enhanced by the driving hurricane that batters the island. I thought this was a fine exercise of symbolism as the island itself may somehow represent the consciousness of the awakened human psyche and the storm represents the turmoil brought about by life. Both the island and the human psyche is at the mercy of the disorder brought forth by life and nature. The score of the film is also to be noted for its ability to enhance the film’s mood; it exuded that 'classic' feeling that made the film's period much more felt. The cinematography of the film is also top-notched as the viewer is brought into this world in the middle of a large body of water, rocks and cliff sides. Yes, the film is quite enthralling in a visual sense, which does work in some ways and at times it doesn’t. My main concern was that the flashbacks does sometimes play havoc in the film’s ability to generate suspense.

                Mark Ruffalo and Leonardo DiCaprio in "Shutter Island."

                                  Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo in "Shutter Island."
But thankfully, DiCaprio is a good enough actor to sell us the film’s screenplay and gives the viewer a feeling of thrills and occasional chills. I loved the manner with which the actor made his character appear convincing in his beliefs and just goes about his investigation with passion. This is DiCaprio’s show, and while I am not a huge fan of his, I still have to admit that the man can act. DiCaprio does take control of the film, as he commanded each scene with a strong fervent performance. I also liked the way Kingsley played his character that just exuded that mysterious, eerie feel that I was made to wonder if he was indeed the villain or not. Kingsley had an abysmal outing in “Bloodrayne” and this film just redeems his resume. Max Von Sydow is creepy and I thought he was meant to project this unsettling image seeing as how he was a former SS commander.
So does Scorsese succeed in adapting the novel? Well, as I’ve said, I haven’t read the novel but I do have to admit that despite its flaws, “Shutter Island” was compelling enough to hold my attention. There were some questionable scenes in the film and the opening half was a little disjointed at times but it did manage to keep me interested for the most part. The film’s climax is powerful enough since it does have the groundwork in the rest of the screenplay. Sure it was a little predictable, but that just meant that the clues did work (maybe too well). Scorsese may not have hit a ‘homerun’ with “Shutter Island”; but it sure is a lot better than the garbage I’ve seen from Hollywood recently. The film does work, and while a little uneven, it makes for a movie worth watching.
Recommended! [3 ½ + Out of 5 Stars]
HYPE LEVEL: With DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese teaming up in an adaptation of a popular novel, expectations would be HIGH. While not a bad film, it fails to fulfill all the hype it had received.
This Review is a Lunch.com exclusive.

3 ½ + Stars: INTO THE DEPTHS of a Fractured Mind...Lies Denial and Guilt

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February 06, 2011
Congrats on the nomination!!! Would you have expected this one of all your reviews? :-)
February 06, 2011
Thanks. Honestly, I didn't expect this one to get nominated. I have other reviews that got way more hits, so this was a surprise. I was expecting my review on BLACK SWAN and TRUE GRIT to get a nomination since I got loads of messages from folks who liked the review...
July 12, 2010
Just saw this and agree fully with your review. Enjoyed it a lot for the acting but I knew the 'twist' at the first flashback. But it was an interesting journey to that point. POSSIBLE SPOILER: And I've always liked the idea of insanity played out in story. I hope Inception turns out to be less predictable.
July 13, 2010
Thanks for the read and the comment, Kaelix. I am with you, I am setting my eyes on Inception this weekend. I hope you review it also for our community.
March 01, 2010
Great review! I agree with you about many of the points. I just finished my own review of the film. I actually like DiCaprio as an actor. He's always impressed me. :)
March 01, 2010
I rounded up my 3.5 star rating because of the performances. Yep, DiCaprio can indeed carry a movie. I just came from your review and I was impressed. Nicely done!
March 01, 2010
Yeah, I figured that's what you did. The character performances really made this film for me. I'm interested in DiCaprio's new film coming out soon too, "Inception." It looks intriguing. And, thanks for the compliments on the review! A little late to the game, but I still had fun writing it and remembering the film. :)
February 21, 2010
Hopefully this time my comment will actually post. LOL! Great review and I see you're beginning to incorporate the whole "HYPE METER" idea into your reviews. Cool. Personally, I don't expect this film to be a Scorsese masterpiece, but even if it's not up to his standards it will still be better than most of the crud out there.
February 21, 2010
Agreed. It pales in comparison to his other movies but shit, it was a lot better than the garbage I saw last week (The Wolfman). If this had been directed by some other lesser known director then this would be praised as a work of cinema.
February 21, 2010
Probably. I do like that Scorsese is trying to branch out into new genres this late in his career, whether the film is great or not, I can appreciate that kind of boldness.
February 21, 2010
Yup challenging one's established genre is a great way to find one's versatility.
February 21, 2010
So, do you think he should keep experimenting or go back to crime dramas and the like?
February 21, 2010
Of course! That's how great directors become a legend.
February 21, 2010
Well, he's kind of already a legend. I just wonder if he makes a bunch of experimental films that don't do well, if that will diminish his cinematic legacy.
February 21, 2010
at least, he will be seen as a bold director.
February 21, 2010
"Taxi Driver" pretty much will guarantee that. Personally, I'd love to see him really break out of anything familiar and do a kid's film with talking animals or a romantic comedy... you know, something totally unexpected of Scorsese.
February 22, 2010
damn...I forgot about TAXIDRIVER..
September 04, 2010
Well, I really liked it. It's funny, because the whole plot was so predictable from the first few frames, but it was well executed.
February 21, 2010
They've been showing the trailer for this flick since last summer! Wanna talk about hype? Did you say the dreaded word "predictable" in there somewhere? That's enough to keep me out of the theater.
February 21, 2010
Yeh I know. I appreciate the flick, but I heard even the book was predictable.
February 21, 2010
Well at least it's got a good trailer.
February 21, 2010
And a good cast and director. Considering this is kind of a departure from what he usually directs, I think you have to cut him some slack. At least he's not rehashing the same shit like Michael Bay and Stephen Sommers.
February 21, 2010
It's not HIS same old shit at least. Thanks God it's not another mafia flick. For that I am appropriately grateful.
February 20, 2010
I was afraid this film might be more hype than substance. It still sounds interesting enough for me to watch it. I will have to decide whether it will be at the theater or on DVD.
February 20, 2010
This film was rather uneven, and pales in comparison to Scorsese's best films. But the acting was really done well and the direction had that ingredient that kept me interested despite its predictability. see it on matinee or dvd.
June 16, 2010
I have watched the film and agree on some of your points, but didn't have the issue with the mechanics of the plot like you did. Wow...did we slightly disagree on one? Let me mark my calendar! Thanks again for a great review which reads differently now that I have seen the film.
June 16, 2010
One more thing...I am a huge fan of this genre...so that may be part of the reason for our divergence on the ratings. There is so much crap in this genre that any decent film stands out!
June 16, 2010
I know. After I read your review, it does bring me to a different view of the film. It was real nice to see it not do something as a 'gotcha' element but instead opts for the "why" instead of a surprise ending. I agree, there is just so much crap in this genre that SHUTTER ISLAND makes for a great film in comparison to other thrillers.
February 20, 2010
You know, I have a review of the book somewhere, I'm just too damn lazy to go find it and link to it right now.  I was planning on seeing the movie this weekend, but stuff came up.  I enjoy Scorcese a great deal, even if this isn't exactly what we've come to expect from him, though I'd say he's not a complete stranger to it.
February 20, 2010
I would love to read your review of the book...(actually I thoguht I did). I thought you were going to be the first to post a review for this one. Scorsese is a great director, his direction is what made this movie quite bearable along with the performances of its cast.
More Shutter Island (movie) reviews
review by . March 01, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Shutter Island Movie Delivers Confusion, Suspense, and an Extremely Poignant Ending
   I am not a fan of Martin Scorsese, and I went into the movie not knowing that he was the director. I also saw this film without having first read the book. Despite these circumstances, I did enjoy the movie which offered endless turns, twists, and confusing scenes into the past of the main character played by Leonardo DiCaprio.      The opening sequence was brief and basic. There was the title Shutter Island in bold gray letters, and then the film started, which …
review by . July 02, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Rofolo are Federal Marshalls that arrive by ferry at Shutter Island.  This is a correctional facility for the criminally insane.  They were sent to investigate the escape of one of the "patients" in the facility.  On the way there DiCapprio seems to be seasick and at times he seems to be seeing weird things.  He keeps having visions and dreams of his dead wife and things that happened around a Nazi concentration camp.   …
review by . March 25, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
How far are you willing to fall down the rabbit hole?  What would you do if you started hearing voices that weren't really there? How would you react if you saw something standing before you that you knew all too well could not and/or does not exist?  Psychological thrills toy with your senses and allow your mind to fall down some of the deepest, darkest holes that exist without any real affect.  Some times they are wildly successful, and other times they become a joke all on …
review by . December 10, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Ghosts and demons
The setting: 1954. A deliciously forboding rocky island 11 miles from Boston, home to a mental institution for the worst of America's criminally insane. The plot: Two federal marshals arrive as a storm is brewing, to investigate the disappearance of one of the patients. It soon becomes clear to the cops that it's not just the patients who are spinning tales around here. The ambience: Gloomy, gothic, and menacing. Cast and characters: Leonardo DeCaprio as senior investigator Teddy Daniels, …
review by . January 11, 2011
Shutter Island - 2010
Pros: DiCaprio and Scorsese, a great duo      Cons: none for me      The Bottom Line:    "Lord, this bitter earth   Yes, can be so cold   Today you're young   Too soon, you're ol"   ~Dinah Washington      The Movie:   Teddy Daniels and Chuck Aule are U. S. Marshalls, traveling to Shutter Island, off the Boston coast, to find an escapee.  Shutter Island houses …
review by . February 24, 2010
Step trhough the gates of Ashcliffe and into a place of pure madness and chaos....
Have you ever had a dream that was impossible to wake up from, you felt like you were falling and falling   but you never seemed to hit the ocean below. Sometimes in our lives, we hit such a point in our lives that everything seems unreal to us that were just living a big dream   day in and day out. Martin Scorsese's psychological horror thriller "Shutter Island" explores those ideas and how sometimes even when everything in our life may seem out of place, may seem …
review by . July 12, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
What Pompted You to write a Review?   A survey     How was the Plot, Acting, Direction?   The plot and acting in this movie was outstanding.  One of Leo's best movies by far.     Were You ENTERTAINED?   I was on the edge of my seat the whole time while watching this movie, and it kept my attention throughout the whole movie.     Did It Fulfill Expectations? Hype Level?   This movie surprised me as well …
review by . July 12, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
   Shutter Island is one of the most well crafted psychological thrillers to come by since Silence Of The Lambs. And it is no coincidence both were brilliantly written novels. Shutter Island is adapted by a book written by Dennis Lehane (wrote gone baby, gone and mystic river). It is a book filled with twists and turns, that will leave the reader dizzy. And, that is what it's film counterpart does to the fullest. Martin Scorsese helms the director chair, in a movie where he is more …
review by . February 21, 2010
Scorcese's is an Island
 SHUTTER ISLAND   Written by Laeta Kalogridis   Directed by Martin Scorcese   Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Michelle Williams, Emily Mortimer and Ben Kingsley Warden: If I were to sink my teeth into your eye right now, would you be able to stop me before going blind? From the moment this ominous ferry emerges from the thick fog to bring Federal Marshalls, Teddy Daniels and Chuck Aule (Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo) to Shutter Island in the opening …
review by . October 27, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Thriller fans rejoice
Shutter Island is the latest film from genius director Martin Scorsese. It tells the story of two US Marshalls sent to a psychiatric facility to investigate the disappearance of one of the patients. While there he uncovers a dark plot surrounding the mysterious facility. Now with time against him and no one to trust but himself he embarks on a mission to expose the truth. But he soon finds out that when someone has a secret this dark they will go to great lengths to keep it that way. Shutter Island …
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About this movie


Shutter Island is a 2010 thriller-period drama film directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio. The film is based on the 2003 novel of the same name by Dennis Lehane. Production started in March 2008. Shutter Island was originally slated to be released on October 2, 2009, but Paramount pushed the release date to February 19, 2010.  Paramount head executive Brad Grey blamed the recent economic downturn as the main decision behind the delayed release date.

     Poster art for "Shutter Island."

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Director: Martin Scorsese
Genre: Mystery
Release Date: February 19, 2010
MPAA Rating: R
Studio: Paramount Pictures
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