“Shutter Island” Movie Review


     I remember last summer when I first saw the trailer for Martin Scorsese’s new film “Shutter Island” and, of  course, was eager with anticipation.  The original trailer advertised an October, 2009 release and with a cast including Leo DiCaprio and Ben Kingsley, I immediately began to think of the Oscar possibilities.  When I see Martin Scorsese’s name on a film, I certainly believe it will be top notch and there was no reason to think Scorsese’s first film since “The Departed” would be any different.  Then the unthinkable happened, the film was moved from its October release date to a February, 2010 release date.  That was when a red flag went up in my mind as I asked why?  Isn’t January and February where the studios dump the films they know will flop?

     Reports indicated Shutter Island’s release date changed due to bad test screenings.  While the film boasted A-List talent, audiences were not connecting with the story and the marketing of the film seemed to lead people to believe they were about to see something different. A bait and switch if you will. Either way, the film was moved into February and significantly different trailers were released.  I felt the new trailers presented the film as more of a horror film and a violent one at that.  So now the time has arrived and Shutter Island is here.  The director of Taxi Driver, Cape Fear, Goodfellas, Casino, and The Departed has released his next anticipated film.  There’s no Oscar buzz, but very few negative reviews either.  Is Shutter Island worth the price of admission?

     Shutter Island is not an action film, nor is it a horror film.  Yes, there are some gut wrenching and very emotional scenes which would qualify for horror entry, but overall the film is more of a psychological narrative type story.  Scorsese’s closest work to this might be Cape Fear, but there isn’t your standard villain in this film stalking unsuspecting protagonists.  Your best bet for Shutter Island is to enter the theater and enjoy the ride.  Trying to predict where this story will go is like trying to predict who wins the NCAA Basketball Tournament this year.  You surely can think of many possibilities, but each has such a low probability, your just reducing your thoughts and predictions to mere guesses.  Yes, in the end, this film sorts everything out and your not walking out of the theater scratching your head, but there are many sharp twists and you may be questioning what is reality and what is not when its over.  If nothing else, you’ll have some interesting discussions as your driving home.

     The film is set in 1954 and we are immediately introduced to U.S. Marshalls Teddy Daniels and Chuck Aule.  They are enroute, by boat, to Shutter Island, which is home to a notorious mental institution for the criminally insane.  Don’t expect to see The Riddler and Mr. Freeze here as Shutter Island is home to a collection of weirdos more in line with “Multiple Migs” from Silence of the Lambs.  The landscapes, the staff and Corrections Officers, the interiors all reminded me of the home of Hannibal Lector, only on a much larger scale.  Our U.S. Marshalls are being sent there to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a dangerous “patient.”  Dangerous to the point where she murdered her 3 children by drowning them.  I’ll just stop there and keep this review spoiler free and rest assured, I am only scratching the surface.

     As you may figure from my comments, Shutter Island is not an original entertainment, but it is engaging.  I could’ve used a bit more pace during the film’s first hour (my wife says I fell asleep during one scene for a couple minutes and said I was snoring in the theater, yikes!), but the second hour is engaging, especially when the puzzle pieces come together and round out a well executed mystery. One of the high points of the film is the musical score compiled by Robbie Robertson.  Scorsese had Robertson put together a collection of dreary, dramatic, pulse pounding orchestral music, none of which was produced originally for this film, which clearly sets the tone and the mood within seconds of the film’s opening.  The score definitely adds to the many key scenes throughout the film and keeps us feeling an inevitable sense of dread.

     By no means are Scorsese or DiCaprio at their best, but the two have collaborated for yet another top shelf film.  If this is their first film together, I would say it was good, but they can do better.  Since they are coming off the Oscar winning “The Departed”, I would say they have actually done better.  I suppose when you have such success, this gives you the clout to leave your comfort zone a bit and show us your good for something other than a mob film.  It’s kind of like driving down the freeway and you decide to stop at a rest stop instead of waiting to rest in the next town.  That would definitely be out of my comfort zone (See “There’s Something About Mary”)!  Shutter Island leaves you feeling that way.  Uneasy, uncomfortable, and unsettled, but never unsatisfied.  In other words, what a thriller should be. On a side note, Scorsese’s next rumored project is in fact a mob film with Robert DeNiro attached! Go figure.  GRADE: B-