Shutter Island – The Movie

Shutter Island is a suspense/thriller that takes place on said Alcatraz-like island, which houses an institution for the criminally insane, complete with intimidating cliffs, rocky beaches, and chilly water preventing escape. Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) arrive via ferry as US Marshals investigating a recent escape. They become increasingly suspicious when they realize that the witnesses have been coached, and that the doctors are hiding something. All hell breaks loose (pun intended) when a hurricane hits this small Massachusetts island, further complicating their investigation as prisoners/patients escape from the damaged buildings.

There are several hurdles to get past when deciding whether to see this movie. First, there is the suspicious timing. A February release puts it after all the last minute Oscar contenders, and also before both the March Oscar show and the start of the real box office season in May. The timing might be because of another hurdle, its genre—a mystery/suspense/thriller involving a (borderline cliché) insane asylum. Despite these hurdles, I saw this movie opening weekend and highly recommend it.

The horrible movie Righteous Kill had the tagline, “De Niro…Pacino…Need I say more?” Unfortunately, these legendary actors have become notorious for mailing in performances to these dime-a-dozen thrillers and thus just listing the names of these past-their-prime actors no longer carries any credibility as a tagline, so for me it fell on deaf ears. But if I were to come up with a cheesy tagline to try to get you to watch this movie, it would be, “Scorsese…DiCaprio…Need I say more?” Even at 67, Martin Scorsese still hits home runs, with an Oscar win only about four years ago with Departed. Like his other movies, this movie is violent and disturbing at times, but he uses the violent imagery to masterfully narrate a complex story and weave in mesmerizing dream sequences and flashbacks. And the once teen-heartthrob Leonardo DiCaprio, now 35, is in his prime as a leading actor. He finally won an Oscar with Blood Diamond, but had strong performances in Departed, Aviator, and Gangs of New York–three movies also directed by Scorsese. I would argue that they have teamed up successfully a fourth time with Shutter Island, and that Leo gives a powerful performance as the tormented lead character.

To complement DiCaprio, Scorsese and the producers assembled a stellar supporting cast, which includes Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, and Michelle Williams among others. Fans of Swedish cinema will recognize Max von Sydow who brings gravitas to his role as Dr. Naehring, whose “German” accent rubs Leo’s character the wrong way (we learn through flashbacks that he is a WWII veteran and liberator of a concentration camp). And I may be biased (I am fan of Bill Simmons’ columns/podcasts and Bill Hader’s SNL sketches), but I thought Ted Levine had a great, small performance as the warden—you may recognize him as Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs or more recently from the show Monk.

With these arguments and observations about its cast and direction, I hope I have given you enough reasons to go see this movie and form your own opinion without my giving too much away about the plot.


  1. Now I´m convinced!

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    24 February 2010 8:07


  2. I really liked the movie, but be aware that it may give you nightmares.

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    24 February 2010 22:20