Movie Review: Shutter Island

Any fear that you had due to Shutter Island’s release date change can be laid to rest because Scorsese knocks this one out of the park.  Stepping away from a comfortable genre with ease and while I love his other films, Shutter Island gives him a chance to make a film that stands on it’s own among his other classics and let’s Scorsese make a visual statement.

Shutter Island is the story of Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio), a U.S. Marshal that has been called in to investigate the disappearance of a patient from Boston’s Ashecliffe Mental hospital for the the criminally insane. From the moment when Teddy first arrives he is greeted with hostility and thoughts that there is more than disappearing patients to worry about within the walls of Ashecliffe. Teddy finds himself in the middle of a conspiracy that leaves him questioning his own sanity and wondering what is really going on in this facility.

What makes Shutter Island work is an engaging story and attention-grabbing visuals. Even if you figure out the mystery behind Shutter Island before any big reveal, you are left questioning your own thoughts or just hoping that you are wrong because of the attachment you have toward the characters. That’s what makes Shutter Island so much fun. At each moment you are right there with the characters looking for clues and on the edge of your seat hoping everything will turn out OK; this is due to tight direction by Scorsese and immersive acting by all involved.

Leonardo DiCaprio is so engaging in Shutter Island, giving the audience a true connection with his character as you are left hoping that everything will turn out alright. The amount of emotion that DiCaprio emotes from just the look in his eyes is extraordinary and just shows how great of an actor he truly is. He is not alone when it comes to skill as Ashecliffe is over booked with acting talent.

Ben Kingsley plays Dr. Cawley in a way that is constantly sending you back and forth wondering if he truly cares for his patients or is the sinister monster just covering up the truth about what they really do at Ashecliffe. The story leads you to think that Cawley is hiding things but the manner that Kingsley plays him gives off the sense that he truly cares.

All of these performances would not matter if it was not for the direction of Scorsese, it is easy in a thriller like Shutter Island to clog up the story with unneeded twists. Scorsese makes no mistakes and drives the story straight through making none of the mistakes that even leaders of the genre usually make. Just going to show that a great director is as such no matter the subject matter. With Shutter Island we can see another side of Scorsese as he paints the screen with an eerie sense of color in dream sequences and provokes fear with tight shots in darkened hallways. One scene that provided that “oh wow” moment for my inner cinefile was during a dream state as DiCaprio smokes a cigarette. As the scene starts down a strange path, the smoke from the cigarette starts to go in reverse, pulling back into the cigarette. It’s minor details like this that make Shutter Island one of the best movies I have seen in years.

Along with great cinematography and over all direction, the score is equally jarring. With shrieks and scrapes it’s not something I would call music but it helps the audience understand what the characters are feeling. At times the score can be overbearing but when it is, the ambiance only adds to the overall creepiness of the film.

As I sit here and write this, I can’t think of any problems. Shutter Island is as close to perfect as it gets. Even though I figured out the “twist” it never hurt the movie, in fact it added to my over all experience because of my attachment to the characters. Shutter Island is the new blue print for a thriller because it doesn’t solely rely on the big reveal, it takes time to develop the story so one moment doesn’t make or break it. Even if you have it all figured out before the end, knowing, in a way, becomes it’s own experience;  I watched the film only wishing I was wrong as we neared the conclusion, because of how much I cared for the characters involved. Shutter Island is an instant Scorsese classic and should been seen by everyone.

I give Shutter Island 5 “weeping M. Night Shyamalans” out of 5.

by Ryan Davis

About Ryan Davis

Ryan is the Founder of Lost in Reviews, a member of The Kansas City Film Critic's Circle, and a key component in the movement to digitally restore the 1986 classic film The Gate. Ryan is also the co-host of Blu Monday a DVD and Blu Ray review show which Lost in Reviews co-founder Angela Davis also appears. While he may be a film and music snob, that doesn't mean you can't be friends. Well it could if you don't like the same bands or films he does, overall it might be best to avoid the subject all together.

Follow Ryan Here: