Leo. Scorcese. Haunting trailers. Hype and buildup heading into a potential late season release. Everything was looking great for this movie…last year. With a push back/delay on it’s release date ’til early this year, this strong picture put itself in the precarious position of being released two months too late for the ’09 Awards season (see my 2009 Film Rankings here), while at the same time being the first big event type film of the 2010 year, though it was not mentioned on this year’s Most Anticipated Films list due to the delay. All of that mumbo-jumbo aside, Shutter Island lived up to its billing as must see entertainment for me but it will have people questioning whether they feel the same more so than many other movies released this year.
Shutter Island is the name of the island US Marshals Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Chuck (Mark Ruffalo) see as the film opens to a haunting score with their ship approaching the island where the criminally insane are held in prison. Mass murderers, rapists, criminals of the worst kind are held here for various reasons. Once you get on the island, the only way out is by ferry. Think San Francisco’s Alcatraz but more remote and intimidating. And trust me, Alcatraz is intimidating, I’ve been there and don’t wish to go back. When the Marshals dock, they give up their guns and thus begins a wicked unspooling of events where they are investigating a missing person. This potentially dangerous escapee purportedly killed her children years ago and then as Ben Kingsley’s Dr. Cawley (the prison’s superintendent) advises, “it’s like she evaporated straight through the walls.” Talk about mysterious, without the obvious giveaways found in the classic The Shawshank Redemption.
Throughout the film, Teddy gets deeper and deeper into his investigation and more clues are revealed which lead to more questions. The entire prison – inmates, staff, cops, doctors – all seem to be involved in one way or another. Teddy trusts no one, he even starts questioning his best friend Chuck, and is battling his own issues as well. To tell too much more wouldn’t be prudent. Various supporting turns are given by Michelle Williams as Teddy’s wife, Jackie Earle Haley (aka Freddy Krueger to be) as a crazy inmate (aren’t they all?), Patricia Clarkson (is she crazy or not?) and the eery Max von Sydow.
The film has various twists and turns but none more shocking than the ending one. This is sure to divide some audiences, but in my mind, if you like the Sixth Sense, then this will sit fine with you. The film holds elements of David Fincher’s brilliant The Game and Scorcese’s own Cape Fear, along with the previously aforementioned ending. It’s a cinematic entertainment that provides strong performances, good visuals, and thought provocation worthy of repeat viewings. I’m eager to see this one again.
Shutter Island stayed with me for a few days after seeing it. That is not something that is easily done. I do, however, think that the February release date change could hurt it’s awards season chances. A few days is one thing but nearly a full calendar year is another. Even having this release in late August would have been beneficial to this date. But that doesn’t detract from the quality of this film. If you like Leo, or Scorcese, or thriller films, or any combination thereof – this really is can’t miss entertainment for you. Highly recommended.