Uncomfortable. Completely uncomfortable. And that’s a good thing.
From the opening scene of “Shutter Island,” you are overwhelmed with this complete feeling of uneasiness. From the hard-edged musical score to the worried frowns of the island employees, you just know that something is not right. But then again, I’m getting a little ahead of myself.
“Shutter Island,” directed by Martin Scorsese and based on the novel of the same name by Dennis Lehane, is a mega-creepfest that needs to become a prerequisite watching for all young filmmakers in the mood to make a thriller. Starring a slew of superb actors, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo and Ben Kingsley, this film begins delivering immediately.
The story starts simply, in 1954 a female patient has disappeared from her quarters without a trace and two U.S Marshals have been called in to investigate. Unfortunately for them, the patient is a passed murderess and her quarters are housed on an island in Boston Harbor that is home to a maximum, security hospital for the criminally insane. From there, the story moves into a complex maze where everyone’s intentions, including the two investigators must be called into question.
Honestly, it’s hard to find something wrong with this film. DiCaprio is captivating as the tattered hero Teddy Daniels. From the stress of seeing the ugliness of World War II to the loss he experiences at home, DiCaprio plays his part with focus and determination that never falls into cliché or satire. Which is extremely important since the pace of the film and the unraveling of the truth all depends on him and his dedication. At the same time, Kingsley is excellent as Dr. Crawley; a passionate man, who cares deeply for the well-being of his patients but is surely hiding something sinister within the storm-hitting Shutter Island.
On the flip side, the score is extremely heavy and is, above all, the source of the high tension you feel throughout the film. Although the set and landscape of the island helps enhance the dark tone of the film, the score completely becomes like a persona working side by side with the actors and places you in the moment. In contrast to the acting, which is very nuanced, the sharp heaviness of the score helps balance everything in a way that keeps the audience engaged and on the edge of their seats. However, I will say that the musical format is not for everyone and some will probably think that’s a little too intrusive into the film, but that’s OK, because like the island, nothing is as it seems.
If I did have to find something wrong with the film, I will say that some of the events in the film are a little coincidental and the ending, which I enjoyed, could be a little too ambiguous for the average audience member. However, that’s if I had to find something wrong.
Clues are all around to tease you into thinking you know what’s happening, but at the same time, you are getting pulled into a web of lies, abuse and fear that never allow you to feel comfortable within the confines of the island complex. This works wonderfully, especially when, as things start to fully unravel, you are not given the random twist-kind-of-ending that Hollywood is making standard in its films right now. No, this film is deliberate, focused and the kind of story that makes you feel satisfied about spending your time in the theater.
Above all, go see this film. Martin Scorsese, while truly a wonderful filmmaker, has made an excellent addition to his resume and given filmgoers a magnificent thriller to spend time with. While many new films think that tension is built on quick scares and dark lighting, “Shutter Island” proves that with strong acting, deep source material and the right guidance, the thriller is alive and well. Just don’t get too comfortable.
4.5 out of 5 Stars