Director – Martin Scorsese
Cast – Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Max von Sydow, Michelle Williams, Emily Mortimer, Patricia Clarkson, Jackie Earl Haley, Ted Levine, John Carol Lynch, Elias Koteas
Release Year – 2010
Reviewed by John of the Dead
Not since his 1991 remake of Cape Fear has legendary director Martin Scorsese tackled the thriller/horror genre, and seeing that he was returning to the genre immediately grabbed my attention. We rarely get such greats to do their work in this genre, so I went into this film with the mindset that I would be wow’d. For the most part, I was, and I can honestly say that after almost 20 years Martin Scorsese still has the goods to put out a great horror/thriller.
Shutter Island stars Leonardo DiCaprio as U.S. Marshall Teddy Daniels, a former alcoholic who suffered the death of his wife several years prior. It is 1954, and Teddy Daniels is paired with a new partner, Chuck Aule(Mark Ruffalo), on his trip to a remote psychiatric facility located on the isolated Shutter Island. A female patient with a murderous past named Rachel Solando has escaped from her cell and it is up to the two U.S. Marshalls to find her. The staff, lead by the renowned psychiatrist Dr. Cawley(Ben Kingsley), is not very helpful towards the Marshall’s needs to pursue this investigation, and it is apparent Dr. Cawley is hiding something about Rachel‘s disappearance. As Teddy and Chuck get closer and closer to finding out what exactly happened to Rachel, the danger surrounding them increases and they soon realize they may never be leaving Shutter Island.
Martin Scorsese does a fantastic job setting the mood for this film. Dark, gloomy, dreadful, it is impossible not to feel the utter dread this film will being you the moment the violas(I think) enter with the film’s opening score. WOW. I found it much creepier than the classic stringed score for Jaws. Yes, mood and atmosphere alone already have the viewer on edge before we get a single ounce of on-screen creepiness. To add to this, Scorsese’s cinematography is top notch. Not going for the grainy look, but instead going for a pure yet dark picture that worked perfectly for this film. He keeps the viewer engaged with this film’s great atmosphere, and it helped with whatever pacing issues this film could have had if he did not execute it properly. Thankfully, he did.
The storyline is an interesting one, and I find it to be one of the coolest and freshest ideas I have seen in a while. There is something about an isolated island(The Whicker Man for one) that just gives me the creeps, so naturally I found this element of the plot to be very fulfilling. I did not read the novel this film is based on(“Shutter Island” by Dennis Lehane) so I am unable to compare what is left out and what has been added to the film. The mystery element of this film is fulfilling as well, and Scorsese expertly crafts the uncertainty we get from the psychiatric staff and we get a great performance from DiCaprio thanks to the toll this uncertainty takes on his character. As the film progresses we are thrown more and more into the hell Teddy Daniels has been thrown into, leading this film in the direction of psychological horror more than the mystery horror this film showed during it’s first and half of it’s second act.
While I did enjoy this film very much, there were a few things I wish could have been fixed. One, the lesser of the two, was the fact that because of how this film was portrayed to us, by the time we got to the halfway point I was already expecting a bit twist. I am a fan of twist endings, but mainly when I do not see them coming. This does not apply to the Saw films, which I always expect a twist ending, because I am always just so flabbergasted at how well they got me. With this film however, it changed how I was viewing it because I was expecting a twist so badly(and I was right, spoiler I know) that I did not take anything in as fact. I was forced to discredit every scene, and think to myself “there is a twist, so right now all of this is pretty much irrelevant”. Some of you may like that, being in the dark for so much of the film, this is just my personal opinion that I felt solely with this film. The other thing I did not like was that a lot of this film’s scenes were overly long. Thankfully, they were at least interesting so my interest was there, but these scenes tended to drag a bit. I am unaware if the scenes could have been cut down or not, so that may mean that this film just could not have been improved in this area due to it’s content. You decide.
Overall, this is a great watch and a nice treat to us horror fans to see a legendary director give us what I would say to be his “first true horror film”. We get a great story, some nice tension, amazing atmosphere, and a climax you never see coming.