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Theatrical Review: SHUTTER ISLAND

GATW Guest Writer

by: GATW Guest Writer
February 18th, 2010

Rating: 8.5/10

Writers: Laeta Kalogridis (screenplay), Dennis Lehane (novel)
Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Emily Mortimer, Max Von Sydow, Michelle Williams
Studio: Warner Bros

You had me at Scorsese. And if he weren’t involved, you would’ve had me at DiCaprio. And if no Leonardo, then you would’ve had me at Lehane. The three men just mentioned (Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Dennis Lehane) excel greatly at their separate specialties- directing, acting, and writing. In case you are unfamiliar with Lehane, he is an acclaimed writer, and two previous film adaptations of his books were turned into the excellent films (MYSTIC RIVER and GONE BABY GONE). Some of you may already know about the man and his work, but I just wanted to be safe.

Each of the names brought up bring great interest to any project they are a part of. Scorsese and DiCaprio have worked together three times, achieving success each time; so all three men being involved in some way with the same film, SHUTTER ISLAND, makes the film incredibly intriguing.

SHUTTER ISLAND’s understandably high expectations do not lead to disappointment. The film is a sufficiently tight, well-acted labyrinth into the darker aspects of the mind that goes mentally and emotionally deep enough to leave an impression.

In SHUTTER ISLAND, DiCaprio plays U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels whose introductory moments are of him vomiting on a boat on its way to Shutter Island, where Ashecliffe Asylum for the Criminally Insane is located. Teddy splashes some water on his face and tells himself to get it together, then heads out to the deck, having a brief talk with his partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo), which allows us to meet Chuck and learn a little about the island.

Daniels and Aule are going to investigate the disappearance of a missing patient, Rachel Solando (Emily Mortimer) who doesn’t remember murdering her three children, and thinks Ashecliffe is her home and the staff are guests or people such as the mail or milkman. Solando vanished from her locked cell in the middle of the night with several guards in the vicinity, an interesting mystery. However, the film is less about the missing Rachel Solando and more about Daniels, who has a personal mission on Shutter Island, and does a lot of discovering on the island. The film is layered, and of course it is, its story originally comes from the land of Lehane.

We learn about Daniels as he tries to bring justice to the evil of SHUTTER ISLAND. The film sometimes emerges as a mental examination of the hero; men of action who need to be able to resort to violence when necessary to save the day. This happens by the film being a character study submerged in a tight thriller, or a thriller of character study if you like to play with your words a bit.

Teddy is our driven protagonist and we experience the island with him while he tries to carry out his mission. He wants to figure what is hidden behind the surface of Shutter Island, and we do too. But the film also makes us entranced and curious about what fully lies behind Teddy’s surface. We see Teddy going to the places only he can: his nightmares, his past and his delusions (possibly brought on by the island). And Scorsese’s great cinematic eye and sensibilities are most clearly indulged in these moments, being put to great use as gripping and technically beautiful results are produced. Why is Teddy (and the audience) seeing these images? That is the story of Teddy, and the real story of the film.

Teddy Daniels is one of the most complex roles Leonardo has ever played, and his performance reflects the great thought and no doubt large amount of time that went into his creation. With DiCaprio’s performance you feel the massive battle going on in Daniels as he tries to find answers and complete his task, while struggling to control his mind.

SHUTTER ISLAND does well on the surface, as well as below it. There is a large amount of tension and paranoia created that grows tighter as the film goes on. It plays with your head, making you constantly second-guess what you are seeing and convinced that every character has a secret.

SHUTTER ISLAND entertains and engages, like it should, given the talent of those behind and in front of the camera. The film hits you in the stomach with the proper impact of a Scorsese adaptation of Lehane novel.

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  • wordsandwinesociety

    Thought the movie was done really well and the last line in the movie was great.

  • wordsandwinesociety

    Thought the movie was done really well and the last line in the movie was great.

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