Renowned director Martin Scorsese returns to feature films four years after his Best Picture winner “The Departed”, bringing us the highly anticipated “Shutter Island”. “Shutter Island’s” U.S. premiere date, just missing Oscar season, should be the first hint about the caliber of filmmaking to expect. While an entertaining attempt at Hitchcockian storytelling, “Shutter Island” is no “Vertigo”, or even “To Catch a Thief”.
A patient has just escaped from her room at Shutter Island, the highest security mental institution in the country, and U.S. Marshall Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) is on the job, trying to figure out how one person was able to slip past security and, more importantly, where has she been ever since. But things just aren’t that simple when Teddy finds an un-cooperative staff and scared patients all around him. Plus, Teddy is having trouble coping with the death of his wife, continually thinking and dreaming about her throughout the investigation. With the help of his new partner, Chuck (Mark Ruffalo), Teddy goes up against Dr. Crawley (Ben Kingsley) and his staff to uncover a post-World War II conspiracy, all the while trying to hold onto his own sanity.
An interesting story with stellar performances, “Shutter Island” is just too exhausting. Lately, I keep wondering if Scorsese likes the characters he creates because he puts them through such hell. While intriguing to the end, this one doesn’t have the lasting value of Scorsese’s early works. See it once and go find something else that’ll keep you coming back. As far as psychological thrillers go, it’s nearer to “American Psycho” than say “Silence of the Lambs” or “Memento”. It gets the job done but you just might figure it all out before you’re supposed to. And if you’re unsure how to feel about any given scene, just listen to the music. Composer Robbie Robertson provides an almost satiric score that doesn’t as much capture the essence of a scene but wave a big flag that says, “Pay attention!” All they need next are digital arrows to point at the important action.
Scorsese needs to learn some new tricks as his films continue to become more and more predictable, story and theme-wise. Something really original for him would simply be to do something different. In fact, half the intrigue of the film is figuring out if he’ll take the hint or fall into his old rut again. Sorry if I gave it away.
With haunting visuals and some disturbing imagery, Scorsese does embark on some new cinematic territory. Dream sequences prove stunning moments for this old-fashioned director. For the lack of originality here, Scorsese will always be able to tell a fascinating story, even if the quality of filmmaking doesn’t match up to his former days of glory. “Shutter Island” remains interesting to the end with the help of some stylish editing and special effects…that’s right, Scorsese, a man who avoids flights of fancy, uses special effects—that alone might be reason enough to view the film.
Working on his fourth Scorsese film, DiCaprio provides another strong performance. He doesn’t top himself but reminds us that he’s still one of the best actors around. He maintains his Boston accent (thanks again, “Departed”) and crafts an intense character, even if he goes a bit overboard with the gumshoe routine. It would do him well, however, to work with other directors and branch out into different acting roles. Hats off to Mark Ruffalo as he develops a more prominent role as an actor putting his name next to other big wigs. “Shutter Island” hopefully marks the end of the winter blues as films start to get better. Scorcese’s latest film proves that even the mighty can fall. It’s not a memorable one but it makes for a fun night out for mystery fans and anyone who just loves an interesting ending.