October 22, 2010

Rabid Rewind: Shutter Island

Shutter Island
starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, and Michelle Williams
directed by Martin Scorsese
screenplay by Laeta Kalogridis
based on the novel by Dennis Lehane
Paramount Pictures (2010)

In the first moments of this movie, as Leonard DiCaprio's character, U.S. Marshall Teddy Daniels, gets seasick on his way across the Boston harbor to Shutter Island, I begin to wonder if Martin Scorsese miscast the acclaimed actor in this role. Despite some stubble, DiCaprio still has that baby-face about him that makes it hard to see him as a grizzled marshall with a tortured past. He does well in the role it turns out, as the film progresses, but despite getting sucked into the atmosphere of the movie I never fully believed that the guy was Teddy Daniels.

If you've read the book by Dennis Lehane (which I reviewed here) there is very little by way of plot that needs clarifying. The film plays out pretty close to the bone of the novel. If you haven't read the book though, and you've yet to see this movie and are anxious to, this is a rare occasion where I suggest you see the movie first. Why? Because there are things that you will see coming a mile away if you read the book, and a measure of suspense will be removed from your viewing experience. That being said, I--having read the novel earlier this year--enjoyed the movie despite knowing exactly what happens and made my fun in seeing how certain scenes would be translated to the screen.

The story starts out as an almost hard-boiled detective story. The psychiatric hospital for the criminally insane is situated on Shutter Island, offering not even the minutest of escapes for patients/prisoners. One woman, however, has gone missing--inexplicably disappeared from her quarters with no apparent or reasonable explanation as to how. Enter U.S. Marshall Teddy Daniels and his new partner (Mark Ruffalo) who ferry across to investigate and hopefully find the escapee before the incoming hurricane destroys all hope of answers. As the mystery progresses and more questions arise, it becomes clear that Daniels is there for ulterior motives related to a traumatic event in his past. And there may be other forces at work to prevent him from solving anything on Shutter Island.

Scorsese does some interesting things with the camera work early on, which helps you feel like you're in the room with the characters as things are being discussed. When things start entering the weird territory, that's when things start to take on a more familiar look with playful camera tricks and juxtapositions. The costumes and set design are near flawless, making the movie seem at points to be absolutely saturated in the mid-20th century. DiCaprio's Boston accent leaves much to be desired by my estimation, but I'm not from the area so maybe I just don't know any better.

The cast is just about pitch perfect--outside of DiCaprio--and I found Michelle Williams to be a particular treat in the latter half of the film where we really get to know her character as Teddy Daniels' dead wife. As for Ben Kingsley, well--it's Sir Ben at his usual effortless self.

Like I said, see the movie if you haven't. And if you haven't read the book either, I suggest waiting until after watching the film unless you want your reading experience to be the one with the surprises. It's your call. Just make sure you watch the movie and read the book.


  1. I loved this movie! I thought it was great & really enjoyed the plot. My husband had read the book before seeing the movie & now mentions how he probably would've enjoyed it a little more if he hadn't already known what was coming.

    Also, he thought the book was great because it went a little more in detail. Great review!

  2. glad to hear your suggestion of watching the movie first. will do.

  3. Lin - Definitely more detail, and a bit easier to be engrossed by the characters as opposed to actors on screen.

    Velvet - Indeed.