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Friday, 26 February 2010

Shutter Island Review

I think it goes without saying that Martin Scorsese is undeniably one of the most prolific American film directors still working today.
He's a director that I greatly admire and while I haven't seen all or most of the films he's made, I've been able to at least see the ones that have made an impact on cinema and/or are regarded as his most memorable films. Naturally, when news of Scorsese's newest project came to my ears, I was excited. And at the time of hearing this, I was even more excited because it seemed that Scorsese was venturing into new grounds by making a psychological thriller (though I was informed that one of his previous works, "Cape Fear", was along the same lines). I was disappointed to have heard that the film was delayed for months (it was originally planned for an October release, I think) and now that I've seen it, was the delay worth the wait?

"Shutter Island" opens with a ferry emerging from the fog. The mood of the film is instantly set thanks to the scenery and the accompanying sounds of loud horns. The year is 1954, and on the ferry are two US Marshalls, Edward "Teddy" Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo). The boat is headed for a disclosed island. The island is serves as the site for a mental institution built specifically for the criminally insane. The two Federal Marshalls are assigned to a case where a patient, Rachel Solando, has disappeared without a trace. The water surrounding the island is icy cold with heavy tides and land is virtually miles away.

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DiCaprio is wearing such an ugly tie.

The film does a great job in portraying the island as something wicked and filled with riddles and nightmares. It is interesting to note that as the film progresses, the island itself goes through dramatic changes which intensifies the atmosphere and overall story. It goes to show that the island itself is almost lifelike, which once again is important, as the entire film takes place on the island and ends up enveloping our protagonist, Teddy Daniels.

Scorsese knows what he wants out of his performances and his partnership with Leonardo DiCaprio proves that. This is the pair's fourth film together (the previous being "Gangs of New York", "The Aviator" and "The Departed") and while I haven't gotten myself around to seeing "The Aviator", I do believe that this is the strongest performance that Scorsese has managed to pull from DiCaprio. The rest of the cast are great with supporting roles from Mark Ruffalo and Ben Kingsley (as the head doctor of Ashecliffe Dr Cawley) being notable highlights.

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Martin Scorsese directs his leading men.

The thing that really made this film stick with me was that it really made you think. A good mystery film (or in this case, a psychological thriller) starts off bewildering and confusing which makes the audience guess and think as the characters do. The film didn't try to pull any cheap scares or shock tactics but instead chooses to utilise atmosphere and dread to create an overwhelming sense of eerie creepiness. I think the best example to the sense of creepiness are the hallucinations and dreams that Teddy is plagued with. The hallucinations and nightmares are oddly enough, very beautiful. Hauntingly beautiful. Anytime that DiCaprio's character was plagued by his wife's death and his war experiences in Europe during World War 2, I knew I would be in for something special.

If I had a complaint about the film, it would be that it felt a little long. Towards the end, there could've been a little bit of cutting because it went on for a few minutes too long. Also, during one of the interrogation scenes between the detectives and the patients, I thought some of it was a bit unnecessary and worth cutting also. The film could've done with a bit of trimming here and there but, as it stands, the film still holds up very well. It didn't take me long to figure out what was going on and I was hoping that the outcome I had envisioned in my mind was correct (and I was partially right). I thought that the climax of the film and the film's ultimate reveal/twist were very plausible and not insanely far fetched. As confusing as the film is though (and this is all done on purpose), all the things that happen in the film, happen for a definite reason and they all build towards reaching a quite satisfying end.

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"It was Professor Plum! He was in the kitchen and he used the wrench!"

"Shutter Island", is one of the stronger films to have kick started this movie year. Had it been released on it's original date of release, the film may have been a good contender at the Academy Awards. However, in comparison to some of the competition this year, I don't think it would've won anything. As a matter of fact, I actually didn't think that it was that much of an Oscary worthy contender. May have scored a few nominations here and there but I doubt it could've won. Don't get me wrong, great film

The beautifully shot hallucination sequences; the somewhat creepy atmosphere and wonderful soundtrack (love Scorsese's selection of music and his choice of scenes to use them in) coupled with some well paced storytelling and fine directing makes Shutter Island a worthwhile watch. If you're after a good taut, mind-bending thriller, make it this one. It's worth your money and, the film as a whole is quite satisfying and has quite a good ending.

"Shutter Island" receives a 4.5/5.

P.S. About 20 minutes into the film, the theatre that we were in suddenly stopped. I wasn't mad or upset with the cinema for doing this though, just surprised to see that happen. It was the first time a film being screen in a theatre shut down like that for me. After about 10 seconds, I think the projectionist or whoever was running that particular theatre realised what was going on and put the film back on. It wasn't enough to ruin the film or anything but it did kill the mood a little because I was just starting to get engaged into the film.

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