Shutter Island (2010) ♥♥♥½ out of ♥♥♥♥

“Which would be worse, to live as a monster or to die as a good man?” – Teddy Daniels

“Shutter Island” is a much anticipated film from veteran director Martin Scorsese, starring Leonard DeCaprio and Ben Kingsley.

The film opens with ominous music and a view of a ferry heading towards a foreboding island. Much like the approach to Kong’s Island, it’s a remote, fog laden place, surrounded by craggy rocks and lashing seas.

Shutter Island posterIt’s 1954 and Deputy Marshall Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DeCaprio) and his assistant Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) have been sent to investigate a woman’s escape from the island’s prison for the mentally insane. Arriving at the island they’re met by a prison guard who tells them “we take only the most dangerous and damaged patients”. The prison buildings loom menacingly above the dock while the rainy, windswept terrain adds to the already growing feeling of angst.

Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley), the prison’s medical director, is a mysterious and evasive character, who seems to relish running the asylum. As the plot unfolds, we find that Daniels is a complicated character who has many flashbacks. In one such flashback we see him as one of the first US soldiers to liberate the Dachau Nazi concentration camp. Other flashbacks are equally unsettling, and convey multiple messages.

“Shutter Island” is an atmospheric, windswept, brooding film, that coveys a feeling of angst from beginning to end. Director Scorsese, a master of film history, often alludes to past classic movie scenes. His shots atop the craggy cliffs overlooking the light house remind us of Hitchcock’s “Suspicion”, while DeCaprio negotiating the dark prison tunnels with only a match to light the way is reminiscent of “The Old Dark House”. Even the lightning storm sequence, with it’s brief canted angles gives nod to “The Bride of Frankenstein”, and there’s the disturbing, yet somehow beautiful, flashback sequences with ashes floating through the air like snow. These are all wonderful images and they give credit to the skill and artistic direction of Scorsese.

Leonard DeCaprio creates an intense, brooding and multi-layered character. Ben Kingsley is perfect as the medical director who seems to know more than he’s telling.

“Shutter Island” is a high-tension mystery thriller of the first order, that reveals a deadly secret as the film unfolds. Highly Recommended.

Cast & Crew

Director … Martin Scorsese

Leonardo DiCaprio … Teddy Daniels

Mark Ruffalo … Chuck Aule

Ben Kingsley … Dr. Cawley

Max von Sydow … Dr. Naehring

Running time 138m. Rated “R”

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4 Responses to “Shutter Island (2010) ♥♥♥½ out of ♥♥♥♥”

  1. I can’t read the reviews for this because I understand there is a twist at the end. Scorsese is one of my favorite directors. This is one I am really going to try and see in the theaters.

    Hope to see your review of The Crazies soon. lol!

  2. I tried to be careful not to address the film’s ending. I think you’ll enjoy it.

    And yes, I’ll be reviewing THE CRAZIES soon, I’m also going to watch the 1973 version again, for comparison’s sake :)

  3. I was not going to see this film in the theater, but after reading your blog entry, I will be seeing it this weekend. The book was great, and I think Scorsese can do it justice. After all, ‘The Departed’ was extraordinary. Plus, if Ben Kingsley is part of the cast, it can’t be anything but great! Keep up the good work, I really like your reviews.

  4. Thanks so much! I think you’ll really enjoy it in the theater, the surround sound gives the storm scenes much more depth & realism! Keep checking back, I’ll be adding new reviews soon!