Review: Shutter Island

Shutter Island | Martin Scorsese, 2010

The psychological thriller is one of my favorite sub genres of film. Yet, they are rarely done well. This is because the ending almost never pays off after the build up. So when I heard that Martin Scorsese was going to make one based on an alright novel from Denis Lehane, I got pretty excited, but all it was going to need was a script that is better than its original source. And as it turns out, the script is what brings down what could have been a great movie.

Shutter Island follows Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) a US marshall and his partner Chuck (Mark Ruffalo) that is on his way to Ashecliff, a mental institute for the criminally insane to investigate the disappearance of a highly dangerous patient. When they get there, things start to feel strange. The people there are not very cooperative especially the Dr.Cawley (Ben Kingsley) and Dr. Naehring (Max Von Sydow). the clues that they have make the case seem rather impossible and Teddy is having is having hallucinations about his dead wife. He also has a hidden agenda. He has heard that the person responsible for his wife’s death is in there and he wants to face him to probably kill him.

Based on its plot, Shutter Island had the potential of becoming one of Martin Scorsese’s best movies. However, the like I said, mediocre script bring it down to the point where Scorsese’s work with his crew and actors are the only things that keep it from being horrible. The dialogue is iffy and most of the scenes would not have worked were it not for the director. With that said, Sometimes Scorsese’s style was way too much. Sure, it does add some madness and intensity in some key scenes, but sometimes it become too overwhelming. Overall, it is good work from him, but far from his best.

As for the performances, DiCaprio is the only one that is given something to do, and he does it very well. It was nice to see Ben Kingsley in a good movie at last, and he shows us why he is as respected as he is, despite having been in really awful movies in the last few years. Mark Ruffalo is nothing but a prop. Jackie Earl Haley is very impressive in his 4 minutes of screenplay. Max Von Sydow just has to be creepy, and he excells at it. And Patricia Clarkson does her best with the five minutes of screen time that she is given.

What is truly impressive is the technical aspects of the film. The cinematography from Robert Richardson is breathtaking. When they are on the island the colors are rather dull but keeping with the atmosphere of the island. However, the flashbacks and illusions are more colorful and just beautiful. I hope that his work is remembered come Oscar time. Dante Ferreti’s set designs do a good job of capturing the creepiness of Ashecliffe. And Sandy Powell’s costumes are much better than the ones she won her last Oscar for.

In the end, Shutter Island is an entertaining and sometimes thrilling movie that is above other movies of its kind because of the work of its director. However, it pains me to think that this could have been much better

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