Shutter Island Review

Posted: March 30, 2010 in Review
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Shutter Island Review

A film directed by Martin Scorsese, the World’s Greatest Living Director (™), is always cause for celebration, and this is something entirely new – Scorsese’s first proper attempt at making a true horror film (not including Cape Fear).

US Marshall Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his partner Chuck (Mark Ruffalo) are sent to the remote mental asylum facility of Shutter Island to figure out how child murderer Rachel Solonda managed to escape from a locked cell. Unfortunately for them, all they meet are brick walls in the guise of Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley). The Marshals are very quickly forced to ask questions of what is really going on behind the scenes. Where is the missing patient? Why are the patients afraid of the lighthouse? Why is a Nazi scientist present at the institution? The answers are extremely troubling.

If that plot summary didn’t sound like anything like a horror, then that’s because it isn’t. in fact, Shutter Island isn’t remotely frightening, terrifying or psychological. Whether this is because of the source material, the director’s relative inexperience with the genre or simple mis-marketing, it’s not clear. The truth of the matter is that Shutter Island is a mystery film with horror framing – merely used for decorative purposes, instead of the focus.

The film still packs a mighty punch, expertly layering mystery upon mystery, clue upon clue, weaving a delicate pattern of intrigue designed to keep the viewer guessing for the duration. Unfortunately, it’s not quite as clever as it thinks it is and thus most – but not all – of the mystery can be unravelled well in advance of the climax.

As you’d expect from a film carrying the Scorsese (™) brand, the film is often visually stunning and breathtakingly beautiful. Daniels’ many terrible flashbacks and haunting dreams are given incredible power via the director’s eye for detail. Indeed, after some of the scenes featured here, it might be wise for Scorsese to consider a World War Two picture as his next film.

The acting, too, is exemplary throughout, with every scene, every question, ever nuance and mystery completely depending on the earnestness of the actors. As always, Leonardo DiCaprio is nothing less superb while Mark Ruffalo provides equally stellar support. Ben Kingsley manages to claw back a huge amount of respect after Thunderbirds, Bloodrayne and The Love Guru. Jackie Earl Hayley makes the most of a single scene as a chance to prove why he’s one of the fastest-rising names in film at the moment.

But despite the wealth of incredible talent on offer, the film is missing something crucial: emotional investment. There’s a strange sense of detachment that pervades most of the film and seeps through every frame, distancing the audience from the characters. Even though Daniels has seen unimaginable horrors – all of which are handled with expert precision – it still feels weirdly unreal an inaccessible.

Overall, not a bad experience, but not a scary one. As good as the names in it, but not as deep as it should be.

3 stars

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Comments
  1. vikkiinpink says:

    I’d give it 4 stars it was great, had a few minor faults but lacked nothing important. I agree about the great acting by DiCaprio – undoubtly one of his best films! x

  2. ad4m22 says:

    Completely agree on that. I was having trouble deciding whether or not it deserved three or four stars, but, in the end, I really found myself lacking that all-important emotional investment.

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