Director: Martin Scorsese.
Writers: Laeta Kalogridis (Screenplay) and Dennis LeHane (Novel)
Principal cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Emily Mortimer
Michelle Williams and Max Von Sydow.
Release date: 2nd August 2010 – DVD/Blu-ray.
US Marshall Teddy Daniels (DiCaprio) and his new partner Chuck (Ruffalo) are assigned to Shutter Island (an institution for the criminally insane located on a remote island) to investigate the disappearance of patient Rachel Solando from the confines of the high security environment.
The case brings Daniels into contact with the hospital’s head Dr John Crawley (Kingsley) and his pioneering work, whilst Daniels confronts demons from his past.
Scorsese returns to the familiar ground of Caper Fear (1991) with another homage to the dark violent suspense thrillers of the 1950’s with Shutter Island.
Like it’s predecessor this is a film where the morals of the civilised world are abandoned in an estranged environment and the suspense element gives way to a dark undercurrent of horror with a lead character questioning himself whilst losing his wits.
In this sense the movie has a strong resemblance to a Stephen King adaptation and indeed many flashbacks to Daniels past feel like sequences from The Shining (1980) with stark imagery/editing.
Like The Shining and Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958), colour plays an important part of the film with reds, greens and yellows used to indicate the lead character’s heightened senses (emotions/dreams/visions) whilst separating us from what may not be real.
The character of Daniels is largely based on classic pulp fiction cops, but it is the character’s underlying sense of barley controlled violence and distaste for society which allows DiCaprio to fully immerse himself in an unhinged character role (Daniels also seems to share the doomed fate and emotions of Harrison Ford’s Deckard in Blade Runner – 1982).
As a leading performer Dicaprio seems as if he wants to inherit the serious method roles which yesteryear would have been taken by a Pacino or DeNiro. If this is the case then he is certainly having a crack at it and based on this performance and Inception (2010) good luck to him as he is certainly picking the right material.
Scorsese is having fun here and at times the film feels like a haunted house movie transferred to the environment of a 50’s Insane Asylum. The movie has a very stylish/dark/pulp/noir feel to it with a sense of claustrophobia and doom which is served well by the imagery of the island itself – jagged cliffs, forests, storms, brooding skies and even a graveyard.
Full marks to Paramount DVD for a print which is clean, sharp, very detailed and delivers a very rich colour palette whenever required – albeit extras are limited to two making of documentaries.
The director has assembled an experienced cast to support this environment with Kingsley’s performance as the institutional head being subtle, detached and in the vein of a monarch of a haunted house. The film’s grand revelation explains why he is such a great actor.
Likewise, Mark Ruffalo gives an ever excellent performance as the buddy-cop whilst Max Von Shadow hams it up as the sinister doctor at large in a corrupt metal institution.
As a thriller Shutter Island is very easy to decode and the clues are blatantly there from the opening scene onwards with Scorsese throwing in a few red herrings en route to the film’s finale.
However, this does not detract from a still great Saturday night movie and homage to retro pulp thrillers.
A likeable and very gothic slice of retro pulp from Scorsese with a realised doomed laden atmosphere, Shutter Island is not the hardest thriller to decode but is still engaging and entertaining.