Monday, 10 January 2011

Shutter Island, last year's second most mysterious island

In Shutter Island US Marshal Teddy Daniels arrives at the island's 'hospital for the criminally insane'. He's there to investigate the disappearance of a patient, who very mischievously escaped her locked cell and vanished into the night. Then so many twists pile up that, by the end of the film, this opening synopsis looks a bit silly. I'd already read Dennis Lehane's novel, so I was familiar with it all beforehand, like I was watching it for a second time. But I'm not going to start comparing it to the book. That would be annoying. The most important thing to consider here is the psychological, symbolic nature of the plot. There are dream sequences. Waking dreams in which Teddy gets surreal flashes of melting wives and paper rain. It's a claustrophobic film where, just as the characters are trapped on the island, we're trapped inside Teddy's mind. And he doesn't look very well. Scorsese has a lot of fun merging mind and reality and throwing everything around in the dream world. Like one of those other films that Leonardo DiCaprio's in, the dreams are a playground of creativity and metaphor, where anything and everything can happen. Little pieces of fantasy, but then the real world doesn't make much sense either. It's silly in a serious way, and can be quite distressing at times, especially if you don't like rats. There's tragedy, but it's wrapped up in mystery and uncertainty and big yellow pills. It becomes so twisty and ambiguous that I ended feeling slightly apathetic towards the whole thing. The film asks you to work it out while all the time giving you sly winks to contradict itself. It says 'here's the conclusion, but it could be like this, or what about this'. Maybe I've already over-analysed the book, making me reluctant to bother.

It's enjoyable though. Part detective story, part horror, part what-the-hell-is-going-on-now. Ominous and stylish and ominous some more, Scorsese knows how to keep you entertained. The mystery is there to be pondered, if you're interested, just don't think about it too hard.


  1. More likely to rent this than Inception...nice hats.

  2. It's more of a showcase of Scorsese's talents as a director, and to see if he can do psychological, suspense pieces like this. He can, it's just not his best work by any stretch of the imagination.

  3. I didn't mind it at all, but unlike Inception, one viewing of Shutter Island was enough for me.

  4. Aargh! I was so disappointed and cross about this film! Made all the effort to get to an actual cinema, with my husband, for a great night out and it just annoyed me. Nail on the head with the "it says 'here's the conclusion, but it could be like this, or what about this'."
    I so loved The Departed, and I thought this was going to be as good, or better (great outfits and all). After seeing it, I decided it was pants.
    DiCaprio still excellent though, and it was nice to see the exorcist again.