Ben Kingsley, Max von Sydow, Michelle Williams, Jackie Earle Haley, Emily Mortimer, Patricia Clarkson
- Rated R
- Buy the BD
All photos © Paramount Pictures
Reviewed by David Medsker
ou can see why Martin Scorsese would be attracted to a property like Dennis Lehane’s “Shutter Island.” Clint Eastwood and Ben Affleck had great success (or at least acclaim) adapting the Lehane novels “Mystic River” and “Gone Baby Gone,” respectively, and Scorsese hadn’t directed a straight-up thriller in almost 20 years. On paper, it’s a genius move. In execution, it is a group of very talented people making a rather predictable movie. Sure, it looks great, but so what?
Set in the year 1954, U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) travels to Shutter Island, a remote island in the Boston Harbor that houses an institute for the criminally insane, to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a patient from her room. Teddy is repeatedly stonewalled in his requests for documents by Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley), the chief psychiatrist, but just when Teddy wants to throw in the towel, he begins to have visions of his dead wife Dolores (Michelle Williams), who urges him to keep looking for answers. Eventually Teddy does find answers – and uncovers an entirely different mystery in the process.
A quick aside to Dennis Lehane, if I may: for God’s sake, enough with the dead kids, already. Seriously, what the hell is wrong with you? Now back to our review, already in progress.
Thank goodness that movie reviews don’t come with a ‘Recommended If You Like’ section at the top, because the movies that spring to mind for “Shutter Island” would only serve as gigantic spoilers. Scorsese creates some genuinely creepy visuals, made even creepier courtesy of the Hitchcockian silence that accompanies them. After a while, though, they lose their impact, because the story betrays the storyteller about an hour into the movie. From there, it’s clear how the movie will end, and watching it unfold is rather tedious.
DiCaprio has done some great work with Scorsese, but his Boston accent here is spotty. Mark Ruffalo fares well enough as Teddy’s partner Chuck, but he’s not given much emotional depth to invest anything in. Despite the long list of Oscar nominees (and one Oscar winner) in the credits, this is for all intents and purposes the Leo Show; the only actor who’s allowed to go toe-to-toe with DiCaprio is Michelle Williams who, God love her, has carved out quite the eclectic post-“Dawson’s” career for herself. I’d comment on the work of Patricia Clarkson, Max Von Sydow and Emily Mortimer, but frankly, it’s better if I don’t. Besides, they only have about a dozen lines each, if that.
Scorsese made “Shutter Island” more watchable than a lesser director would have, but he had no real chance of saving it, and he should have known that from the beginning. Even the good entries in this genre are a bit transparent, but this one plays its hand far too early to build any genuine suspense. It looks good, though.
Single-Disc Blu-Ray Review:
Paramount’s Blu-ray release of “Shutter Island” may not look like much, but what it lacks in quantity it more than makes up for with quality. “Behind the Shutters” is a spoiler-heavy making-of featurette that covers all the usual material (adapting the novel, casting, music, etc.), as well as points out the many clues hidden throughout the film and examines the dual roles that several of the actors were tasked with playing. “Into the Lighthouse,” meanwhile, focuses on the psychological nature of the story, from its characters to the various methods of treatment that were employed during that time.