09 March 2010

Shutter Island


Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kinglsey, Max Von Sydow, John Carroll Lynch
Written by Laeta Kalogrids, Steven Knight
Based on the novel by Dennis Lehane
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Release: 19 February 2010
Paramount Pictures, 138 mins., Rated R

Plot: It's 1954, and Special Agent Teddy Daniels and his new partner Chuck arrive at Shutter Island - a institute for the insane and disturbed - to find a missing patient, but their search brings them closer to cover-ups, bizarre situations, and untrustworthy guards.

Everybody and their grandmother already have their two cents in on Martin Scorcece's Shutter Island spoken. I'm a little late to the game, and I probably won't cover any new ground, but I thought I'd give it a go anyhow.

Very effective as a mystery thriller, Shutter Island has got a lot of lovin' for its major twist in the last 20 minutes. I won't go as crazy as to say I figured it out early on, and I did start to get some of the clues, but once the major revelation came, I was satisfied, a little shocked, and completely in love. I dig this revelation so much, and it completely changes the dynamic of the story being told [which I love/hate - I came to the film to see a thrilling story, not a story about...well, y'know; but I still love it!].

Leonardo DiCaprio has left a large impression on me the last few years. Notably, his work in Blood Diamond and The Departed impressed me more than any performance of '06. Here was a guy who made big with his pretty looks, and actually evolved to be a actor with range, with talent, with the ability to glue the audience in to every word he says. In Shutter Island, his performance is overall quite good, but it seems to range from bad, good, to corny every other scene. Although, the corn factor could be attributed to a directorial choice to help along the 1950's atmosphere. DiCaprio's co-star, Mark Ruffalo, definitely seemed to be spicing up the cornball performance, as he ranges from cartoonish to overblown, although he does have one really cool dramatic sequence in a cemetery.

Ben Kingsley, who threw me for a loop using a regular everyday voice instead of his Lucky Number Slevin accent (which I initially thought to be his normal voice), is terrific as Dr. John Cawley, the man who is basically in charge of the facility and the patients. When he needs to be a freaky dude who can be both a villain and a cunning individual, Kingsley sells it in spades. When the script calls for him to be calm, understanding, compassionate, civilized - well, he's got that covered as well. Kingsley owned. The much-praised Jackie Earl Haley (Watchmen) had but one scene, but it was a memorable one. Second biggest surprise (next to Ben) was Michelle Williams, who has really grown into her own as a actress, after enduring three seasons of Dawson's Creek (no, I didn't miscount; I just gave up after the third). Michelle plays Teddy's deceased wife, and she is quite beautiful and quite wonderful in her role.

The cinematography, provided by one Robert Richardson (Inglourious Basterds), is marvelous. Take the opening shot for instance: pure gray mist, and then a ship emerges, a ship looking nearly as eerie as the surroundings. [The music - devoid of a original score but instead a compilation of previous released compositions - and several well constructed sound effects help sell a good 60% of this movie's power] Not only are the outdoor shots glamorous (and spooky), but even the inside stuff is nicely composed - and in this instance, I'm thinking about post-storm, where Teddy walks through the 'off-limits' building and comes face to face with some unbound crazies. It's films like this that exemplify the beauty of cinematography, and it's great importance to a viewer's overall opinion of a film.

The general story - a escaped patient becomes a case for the FBI who arrive at Shutter Island to investigate - is simply the set-up for a larger story, and it's a juicy one. There's Teddy Daniels, a man cursed with memories of his days in World War II - the atrocities that he witnessed and help commit (beautifully realized through quick flashbacks), and also suffering from bizarre nightmares of dead children and his wife, and with a lot of fire and water thrown into the mix (a running motif). Then there's the subplot of what Teddy's real reason for arriving at Shutter Island is, and then the other subplot of who to trust? and is there something up with this place? To say that all these story-lines are completely engrossing is a understatement - my eyes were glued to the screen the entire time, and I was clinging onto every little ounce of dialogue. Even with its over two hour running time, which I know many have expressed objection to, I think the pace was pitch-perfect.

An thoroughly engaging storyline complimented by phenomenal actors, beautiful cinematography, freaky eerie music, good pacing, and overall awesomeness, Shutter Island is a damn good flick. But...

With the hype surrounding the movie since late last year - after countless times watching the same trailer nearly every visit to the theater - I guess the expectation was that I would be watching a mystery/thriller to end all thrillers, or at least be something so profound that all other thrillers must live up to this flick's excellence. That's not the case here, but that's far from saying Shutter Island is a meager movie. It's not. It's a movie that, even after a week and a half seeing it, still resonates with me - certain scenes, flashbacks, dialogue still float through my head. The whole last 20 minutes replays multiple times, and I continue to appreciate it. Shutter Island is a very, very good movie, and is absolutely recommended. Just don't go in believing it to be a masterpiece that the advertisements hype.


Castor said...

I absolutely loved Shutter Island. So well acted, directed and shot. Can Martin Scorsese even make a bad movie?

A.P. Simon said...

Honestly, I haven't had the luxury of seeing a lot of Scorsese films. I've seen SHUTTER, DEPARTED, LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST, and GANGS OF NEW YORK out of his 21 films. So, I got alot of catching up to do!

Robert said...

2 films you must see Andy are Raging Bull & Goodfellas. They are the quintessential Scorsese films and are required viewing for aspiring film critics. Your dad may have both of them on DVD. Take care buddy.

Uncle Bob