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Sunday, 31 January 2010

Review: Shutter Island (15) ★★★★
Drama is set in 1954, U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels is investigating the disappearance of a murderess who escaped from a hospital for the criminally insane and is presumed to be hiding on the remote Shutter Island.


Its taken two days for me to write this review because I just wasn't sure what I thought of Shutter Island and what rating it deserved. The outcome of this downtime is to report that Shutter Island is an excellent movie experience, challenging, disturbing and thoughtful but not without a minor fault.

I've always seen Martin Scorsese as a little 'hit and miss'. He can make truly great films (Goodfellas, Taxi Driver, Casino) but then equally make dull, tepid affairs (Raging Bull, Kundun, The Aviator, Cape Fear). I wasn't that impressed by The Departed that bagged him the coveted Oscar (that he should have won for Goodfellas!) and without Daniel Day-Lewis Gangs of New York would have been a disaster. So where does Shutter Island fit in my convoluted view point? The answer is that its right up there with the great films for me.

The story is, as outlined in the plot above, US Marshal Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) travels to a mental asylum on Shutter Island to investigate the disappearance of an inmate as well as having personal reasons for also visiting. As the plot unfolds you find out about Teddy's back-story, about his time serving in World War II and the death of his wife. This is played out in flashbacks but never once leaving the main story long enough for you to feel detached, its this that allows you to empathise with him and understand what he's going through. I'm not going into much more as the plot twists so much that to express any more would be teetering on spoilers.

The cast is fantastic, Mark Ruffalo as Teddy's partner brings a grounded reality to Teddy's increasingly out of control main man and Ben Kingsley as Dr Cawley, the head of the asylum, is cold and chilling, hardly expressing any form of emotion throughout other than a steely glare. Each of these main characters play off each other brilliantly putting up boundaries that are constantly being broken down and exposing more and more of the intricate detail that makes up their personalities. Its this film that for me finally makes Leo a qualified character actor instead of pretty boy trying to act tough.

The atmospherics of this film are equally astounding, every set-piece foreboding giving the impression that something is looming in the background waiting to leap out at you. You can tell that set design has been top of Scorsese's list and every minuscule detail has gone into creating this haunting island and its because of this that the tone of the film continually shifts so that it switches from detective noir novel to straight out horror to war with effortless ease.

The only reason why I came to the conclusion to give Shutter Island 4 out of 5 is down to the fact that mid-way through the film I guessed what was coming. Now whether this is the films fault is open to debate but because of this I grew a little detached from the film and started over analysing certain scenes and discussions noting that they were there for a reason and cementing my guess. Again is this my fault or the films for allowing me to know what was going to happen? It's this reason why the review took a couple of days to formulate before I put it down in writing, but it's also a credit to the film for challenging me and that's what I want from my films.


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