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Review: Shutter Island by DrChocolate

Shutter Island

In 1954 a woman who drowned her three children is missing. She’s escaped from her cell in a maximum-security prison for the criminally and violently insane. Ashcliffe Prison is situated on an imposing island in the outer reaches of Boston harbor. Two federal marshals are called in to search the island and interrogate the staff about the woman’s disappearance. And a hurricane is approaching. Obviously, this being a Scorcese movie based on a Dennis Lehane novel (writer of Mystic River and Gone Baby Gone), dangerous, twisty shenanigans ensue.

I had read the book previous to seeing this film and will admit that my knowledge of the book colors my review of the film. Not to say that it is not true to the book or divergent from it (it’s actually a very faithful adaptation), just that in a story such as this, knowledge of the events previous to viewing them changes ones perception. I’d love to know what someone who hadn’t read the novel thought of the film.

Leo DiCaprio has his detractors, (chiefly, the namesake of this site) some of which criticism is valid, some of which I don’t understand. Regardless, as Teddy Daniels, the senior marshal called to deal with the disappearance, DiCaprio gives a stellar performance, quite possibly his best to date. Nightmarish WWII memories and a dead wife (an excellent Michelle Williams – she needs to be in more movies) haunt Daniels as he investigates the disappearance and he is deeply troubled by what appears to be an ever-expanding web of collusion and secrecy. The guards are on edge, the patients are rehearsed and there are rumors of Mengele-like experimental procedures being performed on the patients. The weight of which is masterfully relayed in DiCaprio’s shifty eyes and hitching mannerisms.

Mark Ruffalo (his new partner – Chuck Aule) and DiCaprio have an easy, compelling chemistry (and fit the characters book-wise too) playing well off each others supicions and skepticisms. As the rabbit hole of Ashcliffe deepens and more and more secrets and scares and dangers ensue Scorcese suitably ramps up the gothic visuals, of particular note is the atmospheric, doom-laden lighting and camera work. Every frame is filled with dread and paranoia that only increases as the film progresses. Daniels flashback riddled nightmares are particularly unnerving in their abstracted reality. And if you’ve ever wanted to know what a migraine felt like – wait until Teddy experiences his in the film, it’s uncomfortably like having one without all the pain involved.

There are scene-stealing turns around ever corner too, by a veritable who’s who list of of superb character actors – Max Von Sydow and the ever-reliable Patricia Clarkson, as well as a chilling monologue by the always creepy Ted Levine (aka – Buffalo Bill…gah). Jack Earley Haley also shows up and executes a perfect turn as a particularly disturbed patient.

This bendy psych-thriller is well worth your time and money and I’d be surprised if it doesn’t stick to your bones and last with you into the night. Recommended. So too is the book – just try putting that down. I don’t know which you should do first – but they’re both worth the effort.