The Flick Chicks

Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

Shutter Island

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The Women's Film Critic Circle -
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Something Crazy Is Going On At “Shutter Island”

Based on what I saw from the movie trailer, I thought Shutter Island was going to be a supernatural thriller. From chatting with several of my colleagues, I know I wasn’t the only one with that perception.  The movie is spooky and filled with mystery, but forget the notion that it delves into the supernatural or paranormal.  Actually, Martin Scorsese’s latest film venture since winning Best Director Oscar for The Departed can best be described as a suspenseful, gothic thriller of the “psychological” kind.  In fact, as I was watching the story, which was adapted by Laeta Kalogridis from Dennis Lehane's novel ("Mystic River," "Gone Baby Gone"), unfold before my eyes, I kept thinking this is the kind of stylish, classic movie with its mind games and dark and gloomy atmosphere, the late, great, master director, Alfred Hitchcock would have made had he lived to join forces with David Lynch and M. Night Shyamalan.  

Be that as it may, acclaimed filmmaker Scorsese is the driving force at the helm and Shutter Island is a departure from anything he has previously done.  He’s gathered together a stellar cast led by Leonardo DiCaprio, in this, his fourth collaboration with the director.

The year is 1954, and U. S. Marshall Teddy Daniels (Di Caprio turning in an intense, captivating performance) along with his new partner Chuck Aule (an understated, laid back Mark Ruffalo) has been sent by ferry to the remote Shutter Island, located off Boston Harbor to investigate the disappearance of Rachel Solando (Emily Mortimer) a female prisoner who escaped from her cell at Ashecliffe Hospital for the Criminally Insane.  Rachel, the psychopathic killer of her three young children, was just one of the violent offenders housed at the maximum security insane asylum where the nation’s most violent, dangerous offenders are sent.  Daniels was especially interested in taking on her case for personal reasons, which I won’t divulge.

Upon his arrival, things are not as they appear to be. When Daniels is told about the case, it seems impossible that Rachel managed to escape when the door was locked from the outside, she was under 24/7 watch, and yet she vanished without a trace.  The institution’s director/head psychiatrist Dr. Cawley (a restrained Sir Ben Kingsley) doesn’t appear to be very helpful in the investigation, nor does the rest of the staff including German Dr. Naehring (Max Von Sydow) who might well be a Nazi war criminal that immigrated to America after the war.

Unable to leave and stuck on the remote island during a severe rainstorm, Daniels is left to try and unravel the puzzle concerning the missing woman.  As he begins to dig deeper, paranoia sets in and suspicions arise of a possible consiracy theory and secret medical experiments to control the mind that may be going on at the nearby light house.  

Meanwhile haunted by his past Teddy starts suffering from migraines and having flashbacks, visions and nightmares about his murdered wife, Dolores (Michelle Williams) and what he witnessed as a soldier in World War II when he liberated the death camps and saw the frozen dead bodies, victims of Dachau.  That said, to reveal more of the plot would be a spoiler.

Excellent supporting players that fit into the scenario include Patricia Clarkson, Jackie Earle Hayley, Elias Koteas, John Carroll Lynch, Ted Levine and Bonnie Bartlett.

Without giving any more away, I can tell you the lines separating fantasy from reality and delusions become blurred and it isn’t easy to distinguish between what is real and what isn’t. Yet, afterwards, when looking back, there are indeed several subtle clues leading to the truth that are easily overlooked until the conclusion, when it all fits together.

Although I can’t call Shutter Island another Scorsese masterpiece, his artistry as a director is evident in every well crafted scene, and he delivers a pretty good thrill ride with a plot twist at the end that is meant to blow your mind.  At the least, audiences will find it intriguing and thought provoking. At best, a visit to Shutter Island will result in an “insane” experience, which in this case, is a good thing.


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