Author Dennis Lehane creates novels that are perfect for adapting to the screen. From Clint Eastwood’s Academy Award winning Mystic River, to the critically acclaimed Gone, Baby Gone directed by Ben Affleck, Lehane’s stories always hit the big screen running. His latest is one of the biggest of the bunch; I mean it is directed by Martin Scorsese. After being pushed back from the prime month of November, removing it from this year’s Academy Awards, Shutter Island delivers a solid thriller in the vein of a modern-day film noir and packs a punch that will leave audiences wanting to see it again.
Federal Marshall Teddy Daniels (Leonard DiCaprio) is sent to investigate the disappearance of a murderous patient at the Ashcliffe Mental Institution, also known as Shutter Island. With new partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo), Teddy starts to hit dead ends when the head doctor of the hospital refuses to give him the resources he needs. With very little evidence to go on and a hurricane set to hit the island, Teddy starts to wonder if Shutter Island holds more secrets than expected, and if he will soon be the next patient to check in.
Having read the Lehane novel, Scorsese adapts a rather lengthy novel and gives readers all they expected so if you’ve read the novel you’ll enjoy the two hour journey just as much as reading it. For viewers who aren’t hip to Lehane’s work Shutter Island is two hours of in-depth mystery mirroring a Raymond Chandler novel. There are twists and turns galore and Scorsese is one who will sit back and let the story unfold without rushing anything. He crafts such an atmospheric mood starting with the first time Teddy sets foot on Shutter Island, gruesomely smiling patients shackled at the ankles and beautiful grounds that are a bit too perfect. Not being one who notices locations, wherever Scorsese picked to film the Institute he did a bang up job. The locations in this are majestic and haunting that adds another layer to the evocative world he’s created, Shutter Island could be a slice of paradise without the air of foreboding that surrounds it. The score in this is also fantastic, giving just the right amount of tension to scenes that are already thick with it. The story may be long, but it’s a slow burn type of film, one where the audience is constantly guessing and there are many comparisons between this and 1940s film noir. The film is also three mysteries in one in a sense, consisting of Teddy looking for the escaped patient as well as figuring out if he’s truly going crazy and what that has to do with his deceased wife (Michelle Williams). By the end you’ll want to see this again to see how perfectly the pieces fit and how the evidence was there all along. Scorsese also gets props for the fantastic dream/flashback sequences between Teddy and his wife. They have a pastel-like quality mirroring a painting that has to be seen to be believed. There is so much beauty in these dream sequences you’ll be breathless.
The director continues to assemble strong casts for his project and regular leading-man Leonard DiCaprio gives a performance that might have landed him an Oscar nod had the movie come out in its original release date. DiCaprio plays Teddy like Humphrey Bogart but gives him a real everyman quality that feels genuine. In the scenes with his wife, especially at the end, it gives such a heart wrenching performance that makes you wish what you were seeing didn’t happen. A strong performance that unfortunately might not get the recognition it deserves. Mark Ruffalo and Ben Kingsley are also solid in the supporting roles of Aule and Dr. Cawley respectively. This film makes you remember that Kingsley won an Academy Award once upon a time. Michelle Williams and Emily Mortimer also give solid performances in the small roles they have. Williams returns to the screen in a haunting and terrifying role that will make you sit back and say “Wow!”
While the evidence is there, fans might be a bit let down by the twist merely because it’s been used so much. If you think you know how it will end you’re probably right but it’s such a great movie you won’t really care. The source material plays out exactly as depicted on screen so events might seem a bit too coincidental, so if you have not read the story you might keep saying “Isn’t that convenient?” The blood in this also came off incredibly corny due to how red it is. It could be said it’s meant to give it an old-time movie feel but since there’s so much of it in the movie it becomes a bit laughable.
Shutter Island might not be Scorsese’s best or most accessible film but it’s fantastic. Evoking a film from decades past this film is dominated by DiCaprio and the whole film feels as if it’s from another time. A shame it probably won’t be remembered come next year’s Oscars because the performances are worthy.