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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 27.27%
Average: 16.67%
Pretty Bad: 6.06%
Total Crap: 6.06%

6 reviews, 30 user ratings

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Shutter Island
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by Erik Childress

"Let The 2010 Oscar Discussion Begin"
5 stars

What the casual moviegoer will remember about Shutter Island is the whole; a story they will believe they have seen many times before. As have I. And we would all be right if we were not so wrong. From the looks of the trailers you could call it a supernatural mystery, a horror film or another psychological asylum mindbender, but classifying it is as futile as the barbers of old curing diseases with a good bleeding. This is a Martin Scorsese picture all the way. Avoiding cheap theatrics or the potential fun of making a goof-off audience pleaser after his drought-ending Oscar-winner, The Departed, Scorsese taps into something much deeper. A cliche, in and of itself, that one of the master filmmakers of our time might be reaching towards a grander conclusion about a myriad of topics. Maybe it is one of the many things that won't come as much of a surprise to you after watching Shutter Island. Like how much you want to see it again as soon as possible.

The year is 1954. U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his new partner, Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) are en route to the psychiatric ward on Shutter Island. For the criminally insane. Rachel Solondo (Emily Mortimer), a patient who drowned her three children has mysteriously vanished from the ranks. Many things are mysterious here from the limited access provided to the Marshals to what is really going on in building three where the worst of the worst are kept. Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley) is their guide to Rachel and her disappearance and in true psychiatrist fashion opens up more questions than answers.

Teddy has his own emotional demons at play within him. Back in WWII he was witness to the aftermaths of Dachau and firsthand accounts of punishments against the Nazis. Imagine his reaction when he detects a German accent on Dr. Naehring (Max Von Sydow). Teddy's time in the war led to alcoholism and his inner rage directed at karmic payback only increased when his wife, Dolores (Michelle Williams) was killed at the hands of an arsonist. Most certainly there is more to Teddy than meets the eye as he reveals ulterior motives in coming to Shutter Island. Seems one missing patient and an approaching hurricane are not reason enough to keep Teddy from catching the ferry out as he feels there are darker connections to his wife's death here and he is determined to expose the institution for what it really is. If its keepers are not already one step ahead of him.

Shutter Island is based on the novel by Dennis Lehane, the author whose works Mystic River and Gone Baby Gone were both turned into terrific features and this is no exception. All three stories take their protagonist on a journey where is faced with making a final ethical choice to the satisfaction of their own beliefs between the law and justice. Shutter Island reverses it in that Teddy has already made those choices, as both a soldier and a duly-sworn officer of the Marshals, and the restrain on his guilt is slowly leaking into a crusade to save those whom he couldn't save before. The proximity to those who examine such self-confrontation for a living (and may have directly contributed to previous atrocities) make for an uneasy alliance with the men who took his only weapon upon arrival.

The story's dalliance with the intricacies of psychiatric treatment plays upon our own skepticisms of its effectiveness in the real world and the sense of two-faced white coat dread it has come to represent in the movies. Kingsley's Dr. Cawley preaches his methods of therapy over the growing habit of solving problems with a pill or the archaic final solution of a lobotomy. But is he to be trusted when the suggestion of experimental progress taking place at his facility could be rooted in the sins of our enemies? The connection between psychiatric curing and the rise of McCarthyism at the time is unnerving. Men of a self-appointed power sitting in judgement with their calming pipes in hand telling people that they aren't who they say they are was the new Nazism. Does Cawley represent the new sense of decency though fighting against an establishment of containment over healing or does he have just as much to hide in the name of the new science?

DiCaprio has really found his stride over the last decade, working with great directors and material that challenges him. Here, in his fourth collaboration with Scorsese, the actor is in superior form once again as a ball of rage that connects with us as a haunted avenger for the truth and a vulnerable package of guilt that grows as the film progresses. If one is truly only as good as the support around him, then DiCaprio's stunning work owes a debt of gratitude to be surrounded by Ruffalo, Williams and Kingsley (doing his best work since House of Sand and Fog) and that's just for starters. Jackie Earle Haley and Patricia Clarkson each get a single scene with DiCaprio, each stealing the successive spotlight until Ted Levine shows up as a button-pushing guard and almost officially steals the film in just giving a ride to Marshal Teddy.

In the moment of viewing Shutter Island the first time, it is virtually impossible not to think three moves ahead in waiting for the other shoe to drop. Even myself began to grow uneasy at the prospect of Scorsese using one of the oldest modern tricks in the book to unnerve us and thought ahead to the eventual criticism of the director being better than that. That is because he is. Shutter Island is merely not just a chilling narrative wrapped up in a big twist. Retracing our steps once all is revealed, we can see that Scorsese had been planting clues all along. Not to be clever, but to draw any sense of the gotcha away from it. By the time it comes we are able to relax into the explanation of it all, not in a deadening Psycho brand of exposition but as an additional layer of the humanity we were losing in this period of history. An incidental nod of surrender and a devastating final line should haunt you on your way out of the film and as painful as it might be, you will want to go back to Shutter Island as soon as possible just to clear your head.

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originally posted: 02/19/10 16:00:00
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User Comments

10/05/18 morris campbell good atmosphere corny twist ending 3 stars
12/01/12 roscoe good, atmospheric, but never delivers and there's noi pay off. 4 stars
8/28/11 R.W. Welch Nicely spooky atmosphere, tho a little too labyrinthian. 4 stars
3/07/11 Duke Disturbing Spectacle with a predicatable plot. 1 stars
1/14/11 Monday Morning Shallow story but incredible art direction. 4 stars
11/06/10 Josie Cotton is a goddess Strong mystery/drama. Kind of reminded me of Fuller 5 stars
9/17/10 Stephanie This movie was crazy. I feel like I need to see it like 3 times. 4 stars
8/25/10 mr.mike Demands a second viewing. 4 stars
7/21/10 Fred Hollow and ultimately unsatisfying, flat 2 stars
6/11/10 othree Empty, hyped, usual DiCaprio, Wright brothers' flew better 3 stars
5/24/10 Pienaar What the heel did I just see? A total waste of time. 1 stars
3/28/10 yiannisz predictable..overacted..emphasis only on visuals... 2 stars
3/21/10 Langano Very good film. Last seen leaves you thinking. 4 stars
3/03/10 Stanley Thai Scorsese manages to put all of the puzzle pieces together without cheating the audience. 4 stars
3/02/10 NFD Incredible, truly haunting film. Easily better than anything else out there. 5 stars
2/28/10 Brian Mckay Previews gave too much away, ending predictable. 3 stars
2/27/10 Dave Very disappointing. Total crap in fact. 1 stars
2/27/10 NicoSardonica This film is a mind screw, in the best sense you can imagine. Not for idiots. 5 stars
2/26/10 Rob What came first? The gimmick or the story? 4 stars
2/26/10 Anonymous Horrible trash. Just like your mother. 1 stars
2/26/10 Al The last 1/2 hour makes the first 2 hours nonsensical 3 stars
2/25/10 Chad Dillon Cooper Sort of a remake of "The cabinet of Dr. Caligari". 4 stars
2/24/10 jeff m Way to long, the flash back thing got old fast, not scary at all. 3 stars
2/23/10 Linda Morrison I felt tricked, which almost spoiled an otherwise engaging film. 4 stars
2/21/10 M Predictable, only downfall. 4 stars
2/21/10 Jeff Best movie I saw this year, so far. 5 stars
2/21/10 amy lockmer the finish left me feeling as though I am still waiting for the ending. 4 stars
2/20/10 Adrian Awesome movie that must be seen twice! Warning: Do not watch on LSD. 5 stars
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  19-Feb-2010 (R)
  DVD: 08-Jun-2010


  DVD: 08-Jun-2010

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