Preamble, preamble, preamble. Point being- Shutter Island.
Based on the hugely successful novel of the same name, the film follows two U.S. Marshalls, Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his new partner Chuck (Mark Ruffalo) travel to the downright creepy place of Shutter Island- home of an asylum for the criminally insane- overseen by Dr. John Cawley (Sir Ben Kingsley), to investigate the seemingly impossible escape of an patient. However, when rumours of sinister experiments start circulating, the two Marshalls get more embroiled in the dark goings-on. I haven’t read the book, but if the film is anything to judge it by, it’s well worth the read. The story is gripping from the off and continues to be until the end with very few lulls inbetween. The leads are all great too, with Lord Sir Duke Benjamin Kingsley Esquire, putting in an especially memorable performance.
In terms of tone, Shutter Island is a B movie writ large. The film plays out as a cross between a Hitchcockian thriller and Scorsese’s own remake of Cape Fear. Whilst I have no problem with B movie referencing, I do have a problem with some of the elements of it. For instance, the first time we see the eponymous island, there is a ridiculous portentous track playing that may as well have been Scorsese flashing up on screen and saying “Look, just fear this fucking island, okay? Bad shit is about to go down.” before cutting back to DiCaprio’s annoyingly good-looking face. Yes, ridiculously over-the-top themes are hallmark for B movies (remember Bernard Herrmann’s Cape Fear theme? That will be forever burned into my brain…) but these days I actually find it a bit embarrassing. Especially as these films are not B movies, considering they were made for considerably more than pocket change.
Visually, the film is feckin’ stunning with some fantastic camera work to gape at. Daniels’ dream sequences are especially amazing and genuinely something to behold, rather than to just passively watch. It’s clear that Scorsese is relishing having more creative freedom than his usual output allows. Some of the angles are also very Hitchcockian. The one real problem I had with Shutter Island was that things were resolved a bit too neatly for my liking. Throughout the film, we as the audience, are perpetually having the rug pulled out from under us. However, most of the pressing questions are neatly answered in the last half hour, leaving very little to the imagination. To Scorsese’s credit, the film does recover some of its mystique later on, but I wanted to be completely foxed, rather than merely baffled.
Shutter Island is a truly great film. It’s tense mind-fuckery at its very best. Go. See. Now.