Drama / Thriller

Shutter Island

Distributed by: Paramount Pictures

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


            When I saw the promos for Shutter Island, I immediately thought that it was just another horror film.  I was surprised that Leonardo DiCaprio would take a role in a horror film, but I didn’t think it was anything special until I heard DiCaprio talking about the film on the radio show, FOX All Access.  DiCaprio stated that this film was not what it seemed and that there was more going on than what appeared on the surface.  He spoke with such passion about the film I decided that Shutter Island was a movie I really wanted to see.

            Based on a novel by Dennis Lehane, Shutter Island stars Leonardo DiCaprio as U.S. Marshall Teddy Daniels who, in 1954, has been assigned to find a criminally insane patient who has disappeared from Ashecliff Hospital located on Shutter Island.  Saddled with a new partner (Mark Ruffalo) and suffering from guilt at what he has seen and done during the war in Germany and the loss of his wife, this case has become extremely important to Daniels simply because of its location.  As we learn later, the man who caused the death of Daniels’ wife (Michelle Williams) is also located at this hospital.  Thus, this becomes a search for two people, a patient who murdered her children who has seemingly disappeared into thin air and a pyromaniac responsible for the death of Daniels’ wife.

            However, Teddy Daniels believes there is more than meets the eye on Shutter Island.  The more time he spends there, the more he is convinced that the Chief Psychiatrist Dr. John Cawley (Ben Kingsley) and one of the hospital’s top physicians Dr. Jeremiah Naehring (Max von Sydow) are hiding something…something sinister and devastating about the hospital that Daniels believes must be revealed to the world before it’s too late.

            As I watched Shutter Island, I began to realize that DiCaprio’s description of the film was absolutely perfect.  Nothing is as it seems in this film and there are a multitude of clues to be discovered and layers to be peeled back before the viewer can actually get to the truth of the film.  And once the viewer reaches the truth, there is such an aha moment that you are either sitting there with mouth agape thinking, “How in the world did I miss that?” or you are sitting there with a smug look on your face as others around you say, “How the hell did you figure that one out?”

            I’m not a fan of every Leonardo DiCaprio film, but I have to say that he and director Martin Scorsese make an excellent team.  Scorsese’s films are so good because he is able to get exactly what he needs from his actors to make the film amazing.  DiCaprio is a very serious actor who wants the same thing as Scorsese.  He wants his character to be believable. to be someone you can relate to and feel compassion for and he wants the story to be something viewers want to see again and again.  DiCaprio puts in a performance in this film that achieves all these goals. 

            Michelle Williams was unrecognizable as Teddy’s wife, Dolores, and I mean that in a good way.  Despite the dramatic roles she has taken in the past, Williams will always be seen as troubled Jen from m m m m m Dawson’s Creek.  Happily, there is no trace of Jen to be found in this role and Williams is flawless in her performance.  Mark Ruffalo is interesting as Teddy’s U.S. Marshall partner.  He portrays him in the tough detective in film noir of old.

            Ben Kingsley is the perfect as Dr. Cawley.  Despite the strange things that Teddy Daniels’ investigation reveals, Dr. Cawley still appears to the viewers to be a man dedicated to his profession and the betterment of his patients.  Meanwhile Max von Sydow is incredibly despicable and the perfect foil for Daniels.

            The darkness of Shutter Island is expressed in the cinematography.  Darkness is a large part of this film.  Destruction and violence are at its core.  The mind of the criminally insane is incredibly violent and their acts can be incredibly destructive.  This is mirrored in the storm that ravages the island throughout much of the film.  The beauty of the island when things are calm mimics that of a criminally insane person - often time these people are beautiful on the outside, but what lies beneath is incredibly dark and sinister.

            Shutter Island is a terrific psychological thriller with a puzzle every viewer will enjoy solving.  Nothing is as it seems on Shutter Island and once you peel away all of the layers, you will discover how clever the creators of this film truly are.  Shutter Island has one of those storylines that reels you in from minute one, takes you on an incredible rollercoaster ride and leaves you standing there at the end of it all saying, “Wow!  That was a great movie!”


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