Director Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio triumph with Shutter Island, a true spellbinder from one of the greatest living directors.
Scorsese manages to keep the audience off-balance for the entire experience, while DiCaprio blasts the roof off the place with a gut-wrenching performance. Neither of them misses a beat, and the film will captivate those of you willing to be floored.
This is one of those great mysteries that require you to perk up a bit and pay attention. Even if you guess what's going on, Scorsese and DiCaprio make the ride well worth your time. There's great joy in this journey, on all levels, from technical aspects to the performances.
The film, set in the '50s, opens with a ferry emerging from thick fog. U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels is battling sea sickness and chatting with his new partner, Chuck (the ever-reliable Mark Ruffalo). They are on their way to Shutter Island, home of Ashecliffe Hospital for the Criminally Insane. A mother who killed her children has escaped from her cell—just one of the many mysteries that Teddy wants to investigate.
Nothing on the island seems right. A destructive storm coincides with Teddy's malevolent migraines, and the shady Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley, doing his best work in years) seems to think he can dictate all aspects of the criminal investigation. One of his colleagues, the German Dr. Naehring (Max von Sydow), jumpstarts Teddy's horrible memories of liberating a concentration camp during World War II. Teddy's remembrances all start streaming together until it's hard to distinguish what is real.
And that's just the way Scorsese wants it— nice and screwy.
This is definitely a movie to see twice. All sorts of clues and tricks are dropped along the way, and it's almost impossible to catch them all in one viewing. Things that might strike you as continuity or editing errors are actually quite intentional. It all makes sense in the end.
Let's not forget what DiCaprio does here come awards season. The actor just keeps getting better and better with each film; this work is comparable to his career-best in 2008's Revolutionary Road. Scorsese deserves recognition as well; apart from being a great mystery, this is one of the best-looking movies he's ever made. The performances he draws out of DiCaprio and the cast are all first-rate.
Ruffalo, Kingsley, Von Sydow and Michelle Williams (in a small role as Teddy's wife) all shine. Patricia Clarkson shows up for five minutes and scorches the earth. Jackie Earle Haley, John Carroll Lynch and Ted Levine (The Silence of the Lambs' Buffalo Bill) all make creepy and sinister contributions.
Those of you who have read the Dennis Lehane novel upon which this is based should have no problem with Scorsese's take. He's quite faithful to the tone and the plot. If anything, Scorsese's film has a little more adrenaline.
The story wraps up with something so devastating that you may actually fear for DiCaprio's real-life mental health. The actor just puts it all up there for the world to see.
There's talk of a new Robert De Niro/Scorsese collaboration. I would love to see something that joined De Niro, Scorsese and DiCaprio together in one big party. One thing's for sure: Scorsese shows no signs of slowing down. He's truly on his game, and Shutter Island is an example of a great director stretching his wings.