a critiQal film review Shutter Island (2010)

  • DVD
  • Blu-Ray

Plot: It's 1954, and up-and-coming U.S. marshal Teddy Daniels (DiCaprio) is assigned to investigate the disappearance of a patient from Boston's Shutter Island Ashecliffe Hospital. He's been pushing for an assignment on the island for personal reasons, but before long he wonders whether he hasn't been brought there as part of a twisted plot by hospital doctors whose radical treatments range from unethical to illegal to downright sinister.

578 words (Est. Reading Time 2m 53s)

Even though we have recently become enraptured by NetFlix® instant-streaming cache of films, we do still get a new DVD in the mail every so often. Our latest, Shutter Island, caught our attention back during it’s theatrical run, but disparaging reviews – and lack of spending cash – prevented us from seeing the film in theaters.

Now that we had a chance to watch it at home, would this latest Scorcese / DiCaprio team-up be worth it, or should we have just skipped Shutter Island altogether?

Leonardo DiCaprio, as the main star, does a good job of playing his part in Shutter Island. Whether investigating a disappearance, or delving deeper into the real reasons he’s come to this particular island, DiCaprio’s Teddy is believable from the get-go, if a bit cliched in his role as a 50’s “mah-shul”, as his character drawls more than once. While DiCaprio does deliver a solid performance in his role, he seems to be more complacent in his acting, and lacks the sharper edge to his performance that Scorsese used to be able to evoke – and that made his characters much more compelling to viewers.

Backing him up are the usually infallible Ben Kingsley (who is now forgiven for BloodRayne (2005)) in a stern administrator role, and a surprisingly solid performance from the usual wishy-washy Mark Ruffalo (13 Going On 30 (2004)). Other familiar faces abound within the film, including Ted Levine, Max Von Sydow and Emily Mortimer, but Michele Williams is the biggest standout.

Playing a rather enigmatic tortured soul, she delivers her lines with solid doses of empathy and regret. Shrouded in mystery, her character is the hook that drags the viewer in from the start. and makes them want to stick around for the “whodunit”.

Director Scorsese seems to be slipping a bit. With it’s ridiculously melodramatic mood music sometimes even overshadowing the scene (especially during the opening sequences), Shutter Island seems to be somewhat of a throwback to the monster movies of the 50’s. When the film wraps up before fully exploiting the possibilities it has opened up, viewers will be slightly unsatisfied that there isn’t more after such a long buildup – and some may guess the “surprising twist” long before it’s revealed, so will be even more disappointed. However, one quick line of dialogue near the end of the film returns a more solid impact to the film as a whole, and suddenly gives a bit of that “oomph” back the ending was missing.

Maybe the Scorsese / DiCaprio team-up – once so powerful – is starting to show it’s age a bit in this 4th installment. Shutter Island initially presents itself as a powerful psychological thriller, seems somewhat of a disappointment by the end. While the shockers may be vivid to some, more avid movie-watchers may be able to grasp the gist of the thing long before it’s fully revealed. Possibly due to that, the viewer may get the impression they’ve seen this somewhere before, which will greatly lessen the impact of the film.

Despite that sense of “deja vu”, Shutter Island is still worth a look, thanks to the surprisingly solid performances by co-stars Mark Ruffalo and Michelle Williams.

One word of warning, however: If you weren’t surprised by the “shocking” plot twist of Se7en, chances are any surprises in Shutter Island will be revealed to you long before they should be, so you’ll spend a lot of the film just waiting for the characters to catch up.

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