Two U.S. marshals, Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo), are summoned to a remote and barren island in Boston Harbour to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a murderess from the island's fortress-like hospital for the criminally insane, run by Dr John Cawly (Ben Kingsley ) and Dr Jeremiah Naehring (Max von Sydow).
Review by Louise Keller:
Music paints a tangible sense of dread as Leonardo DiCaprio's US Marshall Teddy Daniels and his partner Chuck (Mark Ruffalo) approach the austere, barren mental institution of Shutter Island by ferry. As the boat lurches Teddy turns green, sickened by the sight of so much water. Thus begins Martin Scorsese's disturbing psychological thriller whose themes canvas a moral fusion of law and order with clinical care. Mystic River author Dennis Lehane's novel explores complex and spine-tingling concepts, made tangible by Laeta Kalogridis's skilful adaptation that lures us into a world where reality is a murky quagmire. It's a breathtaking journey in which we are put through the emotional ringer, while the ever-extraordinary Leonardo DiCaprio once again delivers an unforgettable performance.
By the time Teddy and Chuck (Ruffalo, excellent) reach the rugged cliffs and electrified perimeter of the island, the orchestra's horn section is screaming in discordant distress. Mahler is also playing on the gramophone. Could insanity be catching as suggested by Max von Sydow's terrifying Dr Jeremiah Naehring? Is Ben Kingsley's beaming Dr John Cawley hiding something? How did the missing patient (Emily Mortimer) escape? Are secret medical experiments taking place, using insanity as an excuse to find human guinea pigs? And will the violent storm that promises to become a hurricane stop Teddy and Chuck from leaving the island?
Scorsese effectively builds layer upon layer of tension, using the eeriness of the setting, the unsettling presence of its deranged prisoner inhabitants and the vulnerability of DiCaprio's Teddy, who cannot stop his own nightmares about his war experiences and the tragic death of the lovely girl wearing the gold locket - his wife (Michelle Williams). The plot is as dizzying and steep as the circular steps that lead us to the top of the island's solitary lighthouse, under which the waves crash upon the desolate rocks. The longer we remain on Shutter Island, the more questions are posed. Ultimately, as the layers are peeled away and the film reaches its gripping and dramatic climax, our vulnerability is as raw as Teddy's in this story of wounded humanity that aspires to nobility. It's a thought provoking film that delves in challenging areas and opens our eyes to horrors that defy the island locations' name.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Dennis Lehane, the author of Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone and now Shutter Island is a powerful novelist whose works adapt well to the screen. But for maximum impact, don't read the novel before you see this film, so that you get the full gale force 10 of its plot twist. Which of course I'm not going to reveal.
Martin Scorsese's sure hand directs this thriller with the precision of a brain surgeon and the grace of an artist. And it's no easy task, as it requires considerable sleight of hand.
He shapes and moulds the story with his cinematic tools, letting the story grab us as he guides it to its bleak and devastating conclusion. You are guaranteed to be safe from happy cheesy endings on this one. Along the way, the film touches on the Nazi war crimes, psychiatric experimentation and forms of treatment for the criminally insane (this is set in 1954) and the ability of humans to suppress their most feared demons.
Leonardo DiCaprio delivers a pain-addled and conflicted character in a performance that is orchestrated like the Mahler symphony that has a small role in the film, and Mark Ruffalo matches him scene for scene. It's gripping work from two great actors. Indeed, from several, because Ben Kingsley is astonishing as Dr Cawley, credibly taking us across the great divide between black and white, as is Max von Sydow in elegant pin stripe and black rimmed glasses. Michelle Williams is heartbreaking as the tragic wife and Patricia Clarkson is haunting as an isolated character from the fortress-like institution.
The monochromic production design and the storm blasted setting help enhance the film's mood of dread and doom, propelled with a grunt score. But it's the strength of the story that counts the most - and it will test your resilience.
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SHUTTER ISLAND (MA)
CAST: Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Emily Mortimier, Michelle Williams, Max von Sydow, Patricia Clarkson, Jackie Earle Hayley, Ruby Jerins, Elias Koteas, John Carroll Lynch
PRODUCER: Martin Scorsese, Brad Fischer, Mike Medavoy, Arnold Messer
DIRECTOR: Martin Scorsese
SCRIPT: Laeta Kalogridis (novel by Dennis Lehane)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Robert Richardson
EDITOR: Thelma Schoonmaker
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Dante Ferretti
RUNNING TIME: 138 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Paramount
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 18, 2010