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Posted on 8/28/11 01:50 PM
Before this film came out I developed an extremely well thought out and detailed formula as to how good it would be. It is as follows: Scorsese=amazing director, DiCaprio=amazing actor, therefore by the transitive property of films Scorsese+DiCaprio=amazing movie. So, did my formula hold true?
Well, the short answer is yes. Shutter Island was amazing and seeing it at midnight with a packed theater was quite a fun experience. Having said that, don't go into this expecting something on the caliber of Taxi Driver or The Departed, because that's not what you'll get.
What you will get is an extremely well shot, well written, well acted, tribute to classic horror films. Another name for this movie might have been, "Scorsese does The Shining." The sense of dramaticism is well maintained throughout the entire picture and the simple but menacing score creates a notable tension in the air. There is a constant sense of grayness that is clear right from the beginning, and the opening shot sequence leading into the main grounds of Shutter Island was nothing short of brilliant. Scorsese no doubt drew inspiration from legends like Stanley Kubrick and Alfred Hitchcock.
Shutter Island tells the story of two Federal Marshals, Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo). The two are sent to a remote island off the coast of Massachusetts that houses some of the most dangerous clinically insane patients in the country. They are there investigating the disappearance of a deeply disturbed woman who murdered her three children.
DiCaprio, as usual, was phenomenal. Being with him as his character slowly uncovers more and more about the mysteries of Shutter Island, and the mental breakdown it causes him, is truly the most intriguing apsect of the film. Your state of mind is right there with DiCaprio as he begins to question the sanity of not just the people that surround him, but himself.
A large portion of the film is dedicated to very eloquent yet disturbing flashbacks of Teddy's life; visions of frozen corpses in the street, his deceased wife dissolving into ash in his arms, horrific consequences of war, and a strange little girl beckoning the question, "Why didn't you save me?" These scenes are where Shutter Island shines the brightest, a strange paradox, I know.
My one minor gripe with the film is that it sometimes seems that Scorsese lacked a bit of focus. The film flows extremely well, but I thought a better job could have been done on the psychological aspects. The images that Teddy sees are truly disturbing but the climatic reveal at the end of the film wasn't really as mind-blowing as I would have hoped. As I said, this is only a minor gripe and in no way did it ruin my experience. I just thought that there was a little more that could have been done to place it on the caliber of Scorsese's past masterpieces.
One aspect that I was truly blown away by was the music, or in some cases lack of it. So many garbage horror movies out there rely on cheap "horror gags" as they've been called; creepy music letting you know something scary is about to happen then SCREECH! Man, wasn't that scary? Something jumped out at you at there was a stupidly loud noise. There is none of that here. The music is so simple yet so sinister and foreboding that you can't help but feel uneasy. A few dark chords from an orchestra are all it takes. Some people I think wouldn't even call it music, just a series of notes played by strings, but it works so well here. If not for the music I think I would have marked this down another 10%.
Shutter Island is easily the first must see movie of 2010. While not on the caliber of some of Scorsese's past work, it's clear that a real professional has put this great piece of art together. Scorsese really showed some range here and while it's clear that his comfortable niche lies in the city and crime life, it was really cool to see him venture into new territory. As a side note, thank you so much to the Emerson College community for making the theater experience that much better. Roaring applause during the previews and opening credits really helped me get that much more excited. I think anyone that is in to films should see a midnight release with Emerson College at least once in their life.