Shutter Island (2010) dir. Martin Scorsese
Starring: Leonardo Di Caprio, Ben Kingsley, Mark Ruffalo, Michelle Williams
By Alan Bacchus
Despite the opinions of some people who claim this film as a masterpiece (inc. my colleague Blair Stewart who posted the first review HERE) It pains me to give such a low rating to Mr. Scorsese, but other than the abominable New York, New York, Shutter Island is his worst film – an overwrought melodramatic stink bomb, one giant red herring much less clever than it thinks it is.
NOTE: I write this review assuming everyone has seen the movie...needless to say SPOILERS are ahead.
Shame on Marty for stooping so low as to use easy ‘shock’ images of dead children and the Holocaust in the same film. When you strip away Shutter Island, there’s actually nothing going on, and no suspense whatsoever, and so it takes flashbacks to dead children and the Holocaust to provide the meat. Except these moments are not earned by Scorsese because they are parachuted into the script instead of organically fusing itself into the narrative.
For example, Leonardo Di Caprio is crazy, and so since his past is only told to us in brief flashbacks absolutely anything could have happened to him to cause this insanity. Lehane/Scorsese choose two traumatic events – witnessing the Holocaust and having his equally crazy wife kill her own children. This is certainly enough trauma to cause his insanity, but without knowing the character beforehand, seeing how his relationship with his wife could have progressed to the point of her killing her own kids, it feels false and unearned.
Of course my discontent with this film is fundamental to the point of the story. If you can't accept the 'twist' the movie fails. For two thirds Lehane and Scorsese proceed to lay the groundwork for the investigative potboiler of US Marshal Teddy Daniels and his partner searching for a missing patient by the name of Rachel Solondo. It’s a rather brooding procedural filled with numerous mysterious details such as cryptic messages on scraps of paper, shifty-eyed administration staff who appear to be hiding information, a mysterious government communist conspiracy, etc.
Then at the two thirds mark the rug is pulled out from under the audience to reveal a completely different journey – that Daniels, is not a Marshal, but a patient of the facility going through some experimental role playing game monitored by his Doctors. Upon first viewing the bombshell didn’t so much shock me as stab me in the back for reversing everything I had invested in the characters in the first place. The twist essentially renders everything before it null and void. Therefore, if you don't accept the twist upon second viewing, the experience of watching this ruse play out is even worse. The twist reveals a number of gaping plot holes which become even more frustrating the second time 'round.
Are we to assume Mark Ruffalo was ‘acting’ the entire movie for the benefit of Daniels? Same with Dr. Crawley and all the other staff?
How did everyone keep a straight face? Was there a group meeting where the other staff members laid out this elaborate game?
And shame on you Marty for resorting to the laughable ‘word jumble’ in the third act to convince us the Leo is crazy. The moment Kingsley reveals the conveniently laid out white board word scramble of Andrew Laeddis – Edward Daniels reduced the film to a notch barely above Hardy Boys or the Da Vinci Code. These cheap tactics might have worked if there was any sense of humour in the picture, unfortunately it's so heavily handed its ultimately a dead weight.
There’s even little in the way of technical flare to entertain me, nothing of the authorship which earns the title 'A Martin Scorsese Film’. Even Robert Richardson’s photography which sparkles with colour and glossiness is beautiful to look at, but too beautiful and has no gothic authenticity.
Shutter Island is Martin Scorsese light, a phoned-in performance from Marty and a stain on his filmography.
Shutter Island is available on Blu-Ray and DVD from Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment