Shutter Island

Sunday, February 21, 2010 3:23 PM By Simon , In , , , ,

Yesterday, with my sister and the guardian, I went to see Shutter Island, the new Martin Scorsesse flick, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, based off the book by Dennis Lehane. The above poster you may not recognize, because it is Teaser and therefore disappears after the official one that has DiCaprio glaring angrily at me, which I don't like (because I didn't do anything) comes out.

It concerns a US Marshall, Teddy Daniels, played by DiCaprio, and his new partner Chuck Aule, played by Mark Ruffalo, being assigned the case of a missing inmate of the notorious mental hospital/prison Shutter Island. As Daniels digs deeper into the disappearence, paranoid delusions plague him, and he discovers a conspiracy and...

Well, yeah. Just watch the trailer.

Here, we have a very good movie. It's smart, well-paced, creepy, exciting, well-acted, and, at times, fucking terrifying. DiCaprio's Teddy, constantely running into some strong emotion or another, is turning in the best performance of his rather dreary late-time filmography. You can't help but feel sorry for the guy, and to just give him a break. We open the movie with him wretching into the toilet of a ship taking him to the island, with a never-explained band-aid on his forehead, sweat dripping down his face, giving himself a stern pep talk. From there, he looses things, his mind is played with, he cries, runs, hides, gets shit thrown at him every which way. Had this been put in the hands of another director, I think, it would've been a miseryfest on near Dancer in the Dark levels. But Scorsesse, being himself, expertly handles it into an intriguing thriller that doesn't get caught up in it's own hopelessness. Now, if only our leading man wasn't...trying so hard.

Ten minutes in, and I stil didn't know what Scorsesse was aiming for. Psycho-thriller, hospitalo drama, what?

The supporting cast does it's job. Mark Ruffalo is appropriately second-banana as an apparently novice, noir-ish Marshall from Seattle who is trying to keep up with his partner's increasingly erratic behavior. Ben Kingsley, as a high-up doctor on the island, is at once creepy, deceiving, and maybe sinister. Michelle Williams, shown in flashbacks, dreams, and delusions as Teddy's dead wife, has a Boston accent maybe a bit more exaggerated then everyone else's, but floats around like a ghost from a Dickens story, talking in riddles and obscurity, in a permanent state of mourning that is fantastic. Max von Sydow, as the hospital's top physician with a sketchy past, screams One True Villian, and Emily Mortimar, for the one or two scenes she's in as the missing patient, Rachel Solando, more of an important cameo, is fine. Rounding it out in spoiler-ish roles are Jackie Earle Haley and Patricia Clarkson.

The music, which I think is a bit too swelling and big, at times resorting to cheap fake-outs a la Orphan. There also be some haunting imagery, real postcard material, if one were into movie-still posters, stuff one plants on fan-made posters.

Okay...onto the end. This is one of those ends that, in the Donnie Darko vain, makes you want to rewatch the entire movie to point at things and scream "I get it now!". Maybe it is a bit cliche of one, but that is exactly why you won't see it coming...maybe it's too obvious. Ohmy, but it's just so good, the way it's played out, it feels so...ugh, I hate this adjective, but fresh. This outcome puts the rest of themovie under a lightbulb, an endless barrage of "a-ha!" moments. And then, the very end, the very last scene, is, in my humble opinion, so very sad and ambiguous. In the most abstract way to bitch about it without giving it away, is asking "Does he know what he's doing?"

I really, really liked this movie. It may not be everyone's cup of tea, but for me, this is just the kind of trippy film I would write a paper about if I could, and recommend to people I don't know that well, and hang a poster of in my room if I could find one. It will not go down as my top-twenty films of all time, but it just might make the top 100. It's the kind that will have countless different interpretations, and countless opinions.

PS Here is a lovely quote: "There's no moral order at all. There's only, can my violence conquer yours?"


Luke said...

I was hoping for a repeat of Zodiac with this one - a totally great thriller that came out early in the year that no one particularly noticed... and since Mark Ruffalo is involved, I have high hopes. Thanks for the reassurance! :)

February 23, 2010 at 7:55 AM