Shutter Island starts off on a pretty solid, if unoriginal note. Two Federal Marshals, Teddy Daniels and Chuck Aule, are dispatched to Ashcliffe, a institution for the criminally insane, on the remote Shutter Island in Boston Harbor, to help in the investigation of the disappearance of a particularly dangerous patient. It's clear from the beginning that something is not quite right with Teddy. This offness persists and becomes more apparent as Teddy and Chuck get deeper into a supposed conspiracy on the island. Things really go to shit when a hurricane hits, setting some of the more violent offenders loose, and causing Teddy to really lose it. He doesn't know who he can trust, when everyone seems ready to throw him in a cell in the very place he's investigating. The script is based on a novel by Dennis Lehane, who is also the virtuoso behind Mystic River. It's not the most original story on the market. There's an enormous twist that I will talk about in a little bit, that, I'll be honest, I could see coming, but more on that later. But, I'll be frank. Narrative is not the point of this movie. The point of this movie is to freak you the fuck out and look damn good doing it, and in that sense, Shutter Island succeeds.
Leonardo DiCaprio teams up with Scorsese for the fourth time to play Teddy. I hope DiCaprio and Scorsese keep doing movies together for years to come, because they know each other's quirks, and DiCaprio just gets better and better because of it. He's a bundle of feverish paranoia, solid and confident on the outside, but an absolute wreck on the inside. He's great, capturing all the craziness and fear that a guy like that must be feeling. Mark Ruffalo plays Chuck, who is so much more level headed then his partner. Ruffalo does a nice job combatting DiCaprio's screen chewing with a certain manner of calm and collectiveness. Ben Kingsley is the head doctor on the island, and he is positively terrifying! That's all I'll say on the matter for fear of giving something away. Other performances include Emily Mortimer as the escaped convict, Michelle Williams as DiCaprio's wife, Max von Sydow as a deranged doc, and Jakie Earl Haley in a chilling cameo. Do I need to say anything more about the performances? No! It's Scorsese, arguably the best character director living today.
There is no one like Martin Scorsese working in the business today. This guy is so good, that even his less then spectacular works would be considered masterpieces in any other director's hands. Shutter Island is nowhere near as good as some Scorsese's more recent films. Rather then join the ranks of Gangs of New York or The Departed as modern day classics, Shutter Island falls in with The Aviator as good, not great, but still better then 100% of the movies playing right now. Shutter Island marks Scorsese's return to the mind bending, freak you out, thriller genre since his absolutely brilliant Cape Fear in 1991. He's back in fine form, as he successfully chills the hell out of you watching this movie. Everything from camera angles, to the awesome use of shadows, to the overbearing tension, to the startling, jump out of your seat moments, are all used exceptionally well and do a great job at capitalizing the fear in Teddy's mind. And, finally, the twist. Like I said, it's a little predictable, but, HOLY SHIT, THAT IS A GOOD TWIST! This is not some, run of the mill, oh the good guy is the killer, twist. No, this is a Gwenyth's head in a box, Tyler Durden is the narrator, type twist, the kind that changes your whole view on the movie, and sparks heated debates on what actually happened when the credits roll. I'm getting goosebumps just thinking about it.
There are problems. Don't get me wrong, Shutter Island is a great movie, and certainly one that will be talked about come awards season, despite its February release date. But, it has its issues. There are parts of the movie where Teddy will hallucinate, and, while they are chilling and violent and all the stuff we've come to expect from films like this, some of them just don't fit and drag on for way too long. There's this one in a concentration camp as Teddy reflects on his war days that goes on forever! It's cool, but it draws you out of the story a little bit. Also, the script is weak in parts. All these complaints are for naught though! If Shutter Island accomplishes anything, it only reassures you that Scorsese is here, and he is just as good as he ever was! See this movie. Just be prepared to have your mind blown! A-