Monday, March 8, 2010

Shutter Island (2010)

Title: Shutter Island (2010)

Director: Martin Scorcese

Writer: Laeta Kalogridis, based on the novel by Dennis Lehane

Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Max Von Sydow, Elias Koteas, Jackie Earle Haley, Emily Mortimer


Martin Scorcese is one of those directors who’s name is a household word. Scorcese is as much a star of his movies as his actors are. And this is not without merit for Scorcese is responsible for some of the best films ever made, including some of those fantastic films that were made during the 70s that still, to this day influence modern filmmakers. Films like Taxi Driver and Mean Streets. Both awesome films on their own right; both masterpieces. And both are only a small representation of what this great American filmmaker is capable of producing. His body of work is certainly an impressive one. And one that has never shown signs of diminishing in terms of quality of storytelling and filmmaking ability. In other words, Scorcese is a master. There’s no denying that. So, how did Shutter Island, his latest film, fare?

Scorcese, directing the hell out of Kingsley, DiCaprio and Ruffalo

Shutter Island is the story of one Teddy Daniels, federal marshal. He is visiting the incredibly mysterious Shutter Island, and island that is home to one of the most dangerous psychiatric wards in the world. A ward that houses the most criminally insane individuals on the planet, the ones that are deemed too dangerous to live in society. The ones that have committed the most heinous crimes. Teddy arrives to investigate the disappearance of one of the inmates. I mean, patients of the ward. It seems like she simply vanished from her cell! How did she disappear from her cell without a trace? How did she achieve this when her room was locked and her windows were barred up? Why did she leave without any shoes on? Where is she? Will she survive the fierce storm that’s forming outside? Will Teddy uncover the truth behind this ever evolving mystery?

And that’s a key word on this movie: mystery. It’s ever present, from the first frame of the film to the last. The whole film is drenched in atmosphere, like one of those old school horror movies where the storm never lets up. I personally love movies that do this because I really hate it when horror movies loose that spooky feeling. It makes you kind of wish they stretched it out for longer. But not with Shutter Island, with Shutter Island you get a constant spooky vibe, constant suspense, constant mystery, a constant ominous feeling. The psycho ward feels like one of those castles from the old horror movies, a castle at the end of the cliff. I tell you, that spooky feeling never lets up! The deeper the movie goes, the darker the mystery, the darker the film. The stronger the storm! If you love spooky old school horror movies, where the wind is howling all the time, and the storm looks like it’s never going to end, then Shutter Island is for you.

Thematically speaking though, I loved what this movie was trying to say. Filmmaking is a mirror of our society, which is an aspect of filmmaking that I love. I think its so interesting how we can communicate so much through films. I sometimes feel artists and filmmakers communicate with society in code, through their films. Saying important things that sometimes people don’t like to talk about, addressing themes and issues that need to be addressed and discussed. But sometimes filmmakers don’t like to be so obvious with what they are saying, so they’ll embellish their tales with complications, and drama. But at the core, you sometimes have to wonder while watching a film: what’s this filmmaker trying to communicate? What is he trying to say? Shutter Island is one of these movies. It’s not your typical spooky psychological thriller. Though it succeeds marvelously at being one, this movie is trying to communicate so much more then just a spooky scare.

At heart, Shutter Island is similar to Joel Schumacher’s Falling Down (1993). If you remember correctly, Schumacher’s Falling Down was about a guy (Michael Douglas in one of his finest roles ever) who is driven mad by the way things are set in society. He can’t take it anymore so he bolts and goes ballistic, lashing out against society. Shutter Island has that subversive vibe going for it. It criticizes the government for performing experiments on people, hideous experiments to see what makes people tick. This is one of those “us vs. them” movies, where every one acts just a little weird. Kind of like in Invasion of the Body Snatchers or The Wicker Man (1973). The kind of film where everyone is in on something, except our protagonist. You get the vibe from the very beginning that something is a little off on Shutter Island, and that everyone is acting just a little strange. Its one of those movies where “they” want to control and dominate you, and if you don’t play along, then you are going against the grain, and that cant be good for you. You have to either comply, play along, or be eradicated.
Mario Bava would be proud

In many ways, this film is kind of like a cautionary tale for people with a rebellious spirit, same as Falling Down was. Its trying to say, something might be going wrong, the government might be corrupt, and everything society holds true and certain is a lie, but you still gotta play ball or you are going down. But again, this is all embellished in the film. Which is probably why most people aren’t going to get it. This was probably the reason why after the film was over I heard some people saying the movie was crap. That’s the problem with today’s film going audience, they’ll go in droves to mindless crap like Transformers 2 (2009), but they’ll think that Shutter Island is a boring movie that has too many talky scenes. It doesn’t have that huge splash of an ending, with a lot of special effects.

And yeah, it’s true, this is a very cerebral film. It’s not a film about special effects, or grizzly deaths, or car explosions. This is a movie with a brain, with something to say. Proof of this films cerebral introspective nature is the films many nightmare/flashback sequences, which by the way I absolutley loved! Scorcese really went wild with the dreamsequences on this film, it gave the whole movie a very hallucinatory vibe that I really dug. And on top of that Shutter Island  has an excellent cast, and it was made by one of the most legendary filmmakers in the industry. I mean, as far as I’m concerned, Martin Scorcese has been on a roll and has never stopped ever since he started making movies. He has not given up like many directors have at his age. He continues making excellent films, with passion, drama and intrigue. That’s one thing this movie has a lot of, intrigue. By the way, the feeling of mystery in this movie is only augmented by the films amazing musical score. Martin Scorcese is a film director that has not forgotten the importance of music in a film! I thank the movie gods for that, especially in a movie of this kind. The music Scorcese chose for this film (composed of famous classical music tracks) kind of guided us through the roller coaster ride of emotions that both images and music conjure up. It’s as if the music was telling us how we should feel. I love that kind of score on a film! Very grand. Very classy. Just as grand and just as classy as the movie itself.

Rating: 5 out of 5


Simon said...

Oh, how I love this movie.

Anonymous said...

Excellent review TFC! I completely agree, if their isn't constant action and bodies flying across the screen and god forbid you actually have to 'think' about a movie, people nowadays are prone to throw a film into the 'It sucks' category. Have the movie going masses become dumbed down? I think so.

Tom said...

Man, that part where she goes "Shhhh" is really creepy. Makes you wonder how she ties in to the story now too.

The Film Connoisseur said...

Glad to see positive responses to the film!

@POT: Dumbed down to maximum capacity!

@Tom: Maybe she was one of the patients that they are experimenting on? Or maybe she's just there to freak you out and thats it. Or maybe she's just mentally unstable, and probably has her own reasons for spookily shushing people out of the blue like that.

HorrO said...

Thought you would like this movie. So did I. It was well done. Good point about the spooky feel to the movie. I was looking for a way to describe it, and I think that you got it right.

Tom said...

I had another theory about the woman who goes "Shhhh". Since Teddy was there for 2 years, and would have had urges like any normal guy his age, he might have gotten into some hanky panky with her in some secluded place. When she saw him for the first time after that, she said, "Shhhh" as if to say, "Don't tell anyone about that!"

What do you think about that?

The Film Connoisseur said...

@Horro: Thanks HorrO! I did love this movie, it was as much fun watching as Scorcese's Cape Fear. Gotta say, Scorcese knows how to make a good scary, suspensful movie. I think his musical choices for these kinds of films are part of the success. The music on Cape Fear is equally good, it augments what we are seeing on screen.

I loved that about this movie, the attention played to the feeling, through the music. Its an effective tool in horror, that modern horror directors dont really know how to exploit, Scorcese knows, so he did it. It worked wonders for this movie.

@Tom: Thats a funny take on it, but plaussible. I guess any kind of story will fit there, one thing is for certain, she recognized him, and I think thats really the point, she knows who he is, so she addresses him directly.

Reina said...

What I loved about this movie is that it was, at all times, atmospheric; everything looked mysterious, ghostly! Great review for a great movie!

The Film Connoisseur said...

Thanks Reina, I could see you were defenetly into the movie! I gotta make this one a part of my collection as soon as it comes out on dvd.


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