Movie Review: Shutter Island (2010)

Shutter Island is a psychological thriller set in 1954, directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, and Ben Kingsley.

It begins with Ted Daniels (DiCaprio), a US Marshall on his way by ferry to Ashcliff, a mental institution, to investigate the disappearance of a female patient, who murdered her 3 children. Also along for the ride is Chuck Aule (Ruffalo), Ted’s newly appointed partner. After arriving to the island and being briefed on the protocol they will follow during their stay, they meet Dr. Cawly (Kingsley), who is very vested in the treatment and well being of the patients on the island.

As the investigation gets underway a huge storm decends upon the island as the Marshall’s realize their stay may be slightly more prolonged than originally thought. We learn that Ted has some unfinished business with a patient that may or may not be in the institution, and that he is struggling with the traumatic death of his wife, as well as his duties during WWII. The deeper the Marshall’s get into the situation, the more it begins to dawn on them that not everything on Shutter Island is what it seems.

Upon reaching the end of Shutter Island, I was torn between how much I liked or disliked what I’d watched. There were moments I was loving the experience and then moments I was somewhat torn out of the experience. After some thought I re-evaluated the moments I wasn’t so happy with and began to feel that these moments bothered me a little less than I originally thought. I really enjoy movies that keep me thinking and this one has had me doing just that since it was over. Having never read the novel, or watch many of the trailers which apparently give away a lot of the movie, that even as began feeling like I knew where the movie was going it kept me thinking and believing that there was going to be more to the situation than I thought.

The flashback and or dream sequences are the moments I was scratching my head the most, until the ending when all the peices are put together and you begin to see the meaning in those sequences. Many of the sequences are very beautiful and haunting to look at, and add to a tone that pulls you into the story even if you feel confused about what exactly is happening.

Scorsese directed the filmm very well. It felt long at time but in the end it’s forgiving because a brisker pace would have really had people scratching their heads and not having any time to let the dialogue and story sink in, along with time to appreciate the visuals. I also really enjoyed the music used throughout the film. It adds to the uneasy and creepy environment we are given. I thouroughly enjoyed the jaws-like theme used at the beginning and throughout many moments in the film.

As far as the acting goes, Ruffalo and Kingsley are very good, but the show stealer is DiCaprio. At first his performance hadn’t really won me over as the lead, but as it went on it got better and better and by the end I was completley sold with his character. I was also pleasantly surprised to see a small part by Jackie Earl Haley as George Noyce, a patient DiCaprio refers to at time throughout the movie.

The ending to Shutter Island will more than likely make or break the movie for many people. Either all the pieces will fit together and you can step back and admire what you’ve put together, or people will force pieces where they don’t fit and toss the movie aside in a fit of rage completely unsatisfied with the experience. Even if you’ve guessed the ending before actually seeing it, the progression of the story is very natural and makes the ending more enjoyable because of it. Knowing where the end is leading doesn’t hurt the experience at all, at least in my perception of the film.

In the end Shutter Island is a well directed, well acted, good looking head scratcher with a very hauting tone, that carries an ending audiences may either love or hate.

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