Cinema Review – JDIFF 2010: Shutter Island

Shutter Island, based on the novel by Denis Lehane, centres around US Marshal Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) investigating the escape of a patient from Ashecliffe Hospital for the Criminally Insane. The hospital is housed on the remote Shutter Island in Boston Harbour and almost as soon as Daniels, along with his new partner Chuck (Mark Ruffalo), arrives, he begins to suspect that all is not as it appears to be.

Shutter Island is not a film for those who want a quick film that is easy to follow. As the island itself plays tricks on Daniels, so too the film plays tricks on its audience. The sense of paranoia that Daniels feels as he falls further and further down the rabbit hole that is Shutter Island is shared by the audience. We are 100% on his side and we believe everything that we believe. We have no reason not to.

When watching the movie, it is interesting to watch the smaller characters like Chuck and Dr Cawley (Ben Kingsley). In the end, it is these characters that become the interesting ones in their interaction with Teddy Daniels as he tries to solve the case of the missing murderer.

Leonardo DiCaprio gives a strong performance as Marshal Daniels, but we have come to expect this from him as he is now the new staple of the Scorsese world of film making. It is nice to see Mark Ruffalo get some face time with one of the most respected directors working today, and as always, he managed to play his role with flair and make his deferring to the ‘boss’, Daniels, seem natural and easy. Ben Kingsley appears to have a lot of fun with the character of Dr Cawley, head of the institution, as he pulls the rug from under Daniels (and by association, the audience) time and time again.

Scorsese also appears to be enjoying himself. This is the closest he has got to a since Cape Fear and he mixes thriller and gothic melodrama with such ease that it appears they always belonged together. This is the master of the gangster movie, but you would never know. And at the end of the film, when everything has been unspooled and bared for the audience to analyse, Scorsese throws in a tiny scene that pulls the mystery back together, that could lead to the movie starting all over again, and leaves it open for the audience to speculate about.

In all, Shutter Island is a great film from a great director. Thriller, romance and melodrama all mixed together with fantastic performances, story and soundtrack produced by Robbie Robertson create a gothic thriller like no other.

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