'Shutter Island' chills and thrills
Nothing's as it seems in Shutter Island, but audiences can expect another first-rate winner from director
Adding to Scorsese's ever-improving oeuvre with Leonardo DiCaprio (Gangs of New York, The Aviator, The Departed), this latest effort is a twisting and turning psychological thriller, a mystery that revels in its unabashed moodiness and keeps viewers guessing to the very end.
Shutter Island's not your typical Scorsese vehicle, but rather a prime example of a master director having fun with a genre of his choosing. And the material benefits from this, turning what could otherwise have been a forgettable thriller into a memorable experience that lingers long after the credits roll.
With cinematography reminiscent of Hitchcock's and a foreboding score to match, Shutter, set in 1954, absorbs viewers into its grim environment from the very get-go, as we're introduced to U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels (DiCaprio) and his partner, Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo, Zodiac), en route to Shutter Island to investigate the disappearance of an inmate from Ashecliffe, a hospital/prison for the criminally insane.
Located miles off the Boston shore, Shutter Island is practically inescapable, one side nothing but bluffs leading to a turbulent sea, and its dock heavily secured by armed guards.
Upon their arrival, Daniels and Aule realize nothing is quite as it seems. The head psychiatrist, Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley, Gandhi), is less than forthcoming with patient information, and hospital staff is generally reluctant to aid in the investigation.
As the investigation hits roadblock after roadblock, Daniels begins to suspect something much more sinister is afoot, including unethical and experimental treatment for patients and a mystery surrounding Ward C, a renovated Civil War fortress that houses the hospital's most dangerous patients.
When a hurricane severs all communication with the mainland, Daniels and Aule are stranded for better or worse, and, with no other alternatives, begin to dig deeper into Shutter Island's dark secrets.
Compounding Daniels' frustration are his recurring flashbacks from World War II, during which his platoon liberated the Dachau concentration camp, and nightmares surrounding his wife's (Michelle Williams, Brokeback Mountain) tragic death, suffered at the hands of a pyromaniac, one Andrew Laedis (Elias Koteas, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button).
Aule soon learns that Daniels requested the Shutter Island assignment to confront Laedis, who was reportedly committed to Ashecliffe, only to vanish from the records.
But as Daniels' flashbacks and nightmares grow in intensity, coupled with recurring hallucinations, the beleaguered marshal is led to believe the doctors are playing him a pawn. Still determined to crack the case, Daniels endures, but begins to question everything he's learned, as well as his own sanity.
And the audience is right along with him. The beauty of Scorsese's direction is that the viewer is placed, essentially, in Daniels' wing-tipped shoes. This point-of-view storytelling adds considerable depth to the character, offering viewers a sort of attachment not commonly found in thrillers.
It also works for the mystery's benefit, as once you think you've got it solved, the doubt sets in, keeping the guesswork up and running through the film's entirety, mirroring Daniels' uncertainty on screen.
Shutter is also impeccably cast. Having gained solid footing as a lead actor, DiCaprio delivers a commanding performance, bringing to the character a convincing sense of humanity and pathos.
The always solid Kingsley doesn't disappoint in a superbly understated performance, while the supporting cast further contributes to the film's ominous mood, including Max Von Sydow (The Exorcist) as a dubious psychiatrist and Ted Levine (The Silence of the Lambs) as the enigmatic warden.
Character driven and gleefully eerie, Shutter Island is not quite the action-horror movie as depicted in its somewhat misleading trailers, but rather an intense psychological thriller that practically insists viewers watch it again to catch all the subtle hints and clues - an island worth revisiting, but only for the three-hour tour.
Shutter Island, rated R for disturbing violent content, language and some nudity, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone.