Welcome to ‘Shudder’ Island
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It’s pretty much impossible to give a movie like “Shutter Island” a grade without comparing it to the director’s previous works.
Add to that fact that the film’s director is Martin Scorsese and things get even more difficult, leaving most people, including me, with the verdict: “It was a pretty good movie, but not a great Scorsese movie.”
Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a Federal Marshall (or “Fedah-ral Mah-shall” as he puts it in his thick Bostonian accent) sent to a mental asylum located on an island off of Massachusetts Bay to investigate the disappearance of an escaped mental patient.
Things quickly turn the usual conspiratorial “things aren’t exactly what they seem here” way, leading Teddy deeper and deeper into the island’s secrets, questioning both the safety of the island’s patients as well as his own sanity.
As a thriller, “Shutter Island” works best in its disorienting, dream-like scenes, in which Teddy is investigating the island, not knowing if what he’s seeing is real or all in his head, creating the same uneasy feeling in the audience you get when you first wake up from a nightmare, not knowing what you experienced was real or not.
The magnificent score, done by Robbie Robertson, heightens the tension, making each scene feel like a screw being twisted tighter and tighter, until the ultimate payoff at the film’s conclusion. Even more effective are the scenes played with hardly any music accompaniment at all, adding to the feeling that the audience is right there with poor Leo wandering the dark and creepy halls of the asylum.
The ending that “you’ll never see coming” is, well, not that surprising and can be seen coming from about a mile away. But even though the twist probabtly won’t blow your mind. Its execution is a decent enough payoff (the twist’s twist, if you will), so the audience doesn’t feel totally cheated.
“Shutter Island” is no “Goodfellas” (has to be said), but it’s a new type of movie, even a new style, we haven’t seen before from Scorsese. It doesn’t break much new ground but proves Scorsese can exploit the thriller conventions just about as well as anyone else in the business, making “Shutter Island” still worthy of your 10 bucks.