17 March 2010
Shutter Island: Releases 12 March
The godfather of modern movies, Martin Scorsese has been making films for over 40 years and has brought us some of the classics of his generation, like Taxi Driver (1976), Raging Bull (1980), Goodfellas (1990).
Although his more recent films like The Aviator (2004) and The Departed (2006) aren't as ground-breaking as his earlier efforts his latest, Shutter Island, proves Scorsese is still well at the top of his game when it comes to making top-class cinema.
It's the mid-1950s and, when one of the patients at the Ashecliffe psychiatric hospital vanishes from inside a locked room, Detective Teddy Daniels (Leonard DiCaprio) is called to the isolated Shutter Island off the coast of Boston.
Arriving with his new partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo), Teddy begins to investigate the disappearance but finds his way blocked at every turn by the secretive staff, headed up by the strange Dr Cawley (Ben Kingsley). And if that wasn't enough, Teddy begins to suffer from debilitating migraines, which soon give way to violent nightmares of the time he spent as a soldier during World War II and his late wife (Michelle Williams).
As Teddy begins to piece together the truth behind what is happening to the patients at Ashecliffe, his dreams begin to spill over into disturbing hallucinations; can he solve the mystery of Shutter Island before it consumes him?
Leonardo DiCaprio puts in a stunning turn as the deeply troubled Teddy; he's certainly come a long way as an actor in the decade since his pretty-boy performance in James Cameron's Titanic. The more time Teddy spends on Shutter Island, the more emotionally involved he becomes with it, and the more he pulls the audience in to his journey.
In direct contrast to his visceral performance is his co-star Mark Ruffalo, who is excellent as Teddy's partner Chuck. Level-headed, likeable and watchable, Ruffalo grounds the story - essential as Teddy's emotions rage like a maelstrom around him - and helps guide the audience through the narrative when all around him people are, literally, losing the plot.
And Sir Ben Kingsley is well-cast, too, lending a calm air to his character that only hints at the darkness that may be beneath the surface; he's a man we want to trust but can't seem to and, like Teddy, we want to know why.
Scorsese, too, is in full Cape Fear mode; this is not subtle storytelling by any means. He is clearly having fun with the license to overindulge, so there's plenty of lashing rain, shadowy corridors and terrifying visions. The institution itself is gloriously nightmarish, with the screams of tortured patients echoing through the walls, but it all fits with the story.
The use of green screen is obvious, too; the characters popping against the backdrop of the island, lending the whole thing an unreal quality and giving us the sense that nothing is quite as it seems Indeed, by the time the truths of Shutter Island reveal themselves in the final scenes, everything that has come before will snap into sharp focus.
That you'll want to go back to the beginning and watch the whole thing again is just a pleasant side-effect of Scorsese's film-making; he has, once again, given us a watchable, wonderful film.
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