Shutter Island – It’s Just Creepy

19 Feb


It’s a mass of physiological anxiety wrapped in the twists and turns of the clinically insane mind.  Shutter Island is from start to finish an intriguing journey down the rabbits hole of the human psyche.

Some critics are sure to pan the mildly wandering narrative, all the while praising Martin Scorsese’s technical brilliance; but at the end of the day this is just an enjoyably riveting film that delivers exactly what it promises.

Based closely on the novel by Dennis Lehane, Shutter Island follows Teddy Daniel’s (Leonardo DiCaprio), a US Marshall sent to investigate the disappearance of a patient at the Ashecliffe Hospital for the Criminally Insane. Or is it. Insert diabolical laugh here.

Actually, it would be more appropriate to start dropping your vowels. Apparently Leo just couldn’t get enough of his “Boston” accent from The Departed, so he decided to bring it along.  Although, set in Massachusetts in 1954, the pervasive use of the famous New England accent, proves as little more than a mild distraction as characters from the west coast even strangely start dropping the r’s. But that, and Mark Ruffalo’s performance, aside the rest of the film develops a really rich sense of unease and creepiness, that would make Alfred Hitchcock proud.

Every inch of the film oozes unsettling, from charters to the shadowy mix of fog and mist that blanket the island. Mr. Scorsese does an amazing job of rotating the vehicles of creepiness to make sure you’re continually feeling a mixture of anxiety and fear, without resorting to quick camera movements or people jumping out of the woods. Sometimes it’s the haunting music, other times its the slowly flickering light of a match, but at no time do you feel safe or comfortable.

This begins with the introduction of Dr. Cawley played by Ben Kingsley with the natural creepiness that comes from being bald, British and having a goatee all at the same time. Kingsley plays the hospital’s leading physician with simply, which works well against the complexity surrounding the film, making his role even more interesting as the story unfolds.

The inherent creepiness continues with a classic evil archetype: the formerly nazi (maybe) German psychiatrist. Dr. Naehring, played by with uniquely precision of Max von Sydow, is the catalyst for the initial glimpses into Teddy Daniel’s troubled past as a soldier participating in the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp. These flashbacks lay the groundwork for Teddy’s mental state as his investigation leads from weird to weirder.

At the center of the film’s evolution is Teddy’s wife Dolores, played by with extreme creepiness by Michele Williams. As Teddy delves further into his consciousness, Dolores’ sanity, or lack thereof, and his nature as a violent man become increasing intertwined until the final twist proves to unravel the remaining mysteries. Well kind of.

It’s not the kind of movie that you will leave the theater talking about, not only what you thought of it’s quality…but what actually happened.  There is a sense towards the end that simplicity of the conclusions don’t match the stakes established at the outset, but in my experience the most true conclusions are simpler than one may have thought.

Directed by Martin Scorsese; written by Laeta Kalogridis, based on the novel by Dennis Lehane. Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio,  Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Michelle Williams, Patricia Clarkson, Jackie Earle Haley and Max von Sydow. A Paramount Pictures Production with a run time of 2 hours and 18 minutes.

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