“Shutter Island” – 2010 Dir. Martin Scorsese

“Shutter Island” Directed by Martin Scorsese

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Kingsly, Mark Ruffalo, Emily Mortimor, Jackie Earle Haley, John Carrol Lynch, with Ted Levine and Max von Sydow.

“Wouldn’t you agree – if you see a monster, you must stop it.”

Martin Scorsese’s new feature follows the story of two US Marshall’s embarking to the mysterious and well isolated Shutter Island, home of the criminally insane.  It’s 1952, the Third Reich has fallen, and there is a new and more inanimate threat to America’s way of life in the form of Communism.

DiCaprio (Scorsese’s new DeNiro) plays Teddy Daniels, a hard bent alcoholic, WW II vet who has a primal need for violence.  His new partner Chuck Aule (played brilliantly by Ruffalo) isn’t as hard bent, nor as violent.  Their assignment is to find a patient who escaped out of her cell, “it’s as if she evaporated through the walls” says Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley).

The men arrive on Shutter Island and are essentially stripped of all their legal power and jurisdiction due to the strict rules set by the Warden.  The island is creepy, and filled with eerie patients and orderlies.

Daniel’s see quick that something isn’t right on this island, that there is something very strange going on.  His hunch grows as he meets more patients, and doctors – especially Dr. Naehring – a German doctor who Daniel’s suspects is a former Nazi.  It is such a treat to see Sydow in a Scorsese film, it feels long over due that an actor of his prestige and callaber hasn’t worked with Scorsese before.

I saw this film with my friend Peyton and we figured out the ending about 45 minutes into the film.  The best part of “Shutter Island” is the acting, the supporting cast is amazing, and is one of the best ensemble acted films I have seen in a long, long time.  The problem that exists in “Shutter Island” is it isn’t a Scorsese film.  It has certain aspects and signatures of his previous body of work.  Basically the film was something he was hired to direct, it’s not a project that he sought out, and had been wanting to make.

I have a similar complaint with “The Departed” (although that is a much, much better film).  There are aspects of “The Departed” that feel like a Scorsese film, such as the opening voice over monologue with Nicholson and the use of “Gimme Shelter” – then later in the film the sex scene that is queued up to “Comfortably Numb” by Roger Waters and Van Morrison.  But it doesn’t feel personal enough to me.

To make my defense, I am the biggest Scorsese fan that I know.  I have seen his brilliant deep cuts, “The Last Temptation of Christ”, “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore”, “Life Lessons”, “After Hours”, “Who’s That Knocking at My Door”.  “Shutter Island” is much like “Cape Fear” – a film genre that Scorsese isn’t a staple in.  They are both films that were made to make money, to be marketed to the masses (as was “The Departed” to a certain extent).  I feel that Scorsese hasn’t made a Scorsese film since “The Aviator” and prior to that one of his masterpieces, “Gangs of New York”.

The acting is brilliant in Island, but I am starting to get tired of DiCaprio.  I think the his best Scorsese performance was in “The Aviator” and I think he can be replaced in his other collaborations.  I have always thought that Collin Farrel would have been perfect to play Amsterdam in “Gangs of New York”.  DiCaprio has some very good scenes in the film, but other scene’s feel forced to me, they feel like he is trying to stretch himself too thin.

The absolute best scene in the film is a remarkable display of Ted Levine’s acting craft.  In a short jeep ride from the woods, back to the main compound on Shutter Island, Levine (who has three small scenes as the Warden of Shutter Island) talks to DiCaprio about violence.  He speaks metaphorically to Daniels about how both of them have a general desire and need to blood, how they have this genuine taste for blood.  Levine is haunting and scary in this scene, and gives a performance just as good as Buffalo Bill in “Silence of the Lambs” or Bosco in “Heat”.

The film is semi-worth seeing for the stellar acting ensemble, and for the visually haunting Shutter Island, with much homage shown to “The Shinning” and “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”.  The scene’s of DiCaprio having flashbacks to WWII are where you can tell it’s a Scorsese picture.  It feels authentic – it feels great.

I long for Scorsese to make another personal film.  His next project has been said to be “The Invention of Hugo Cabert” a French childrens story.  Oh, and it’s supposed to be in 3D.  When is Scorsese going to make is long promised “Silence”, or “I Heard You Paint Houses” which is supposed to be his reteaming with DeNiro about a Irish hitman who is rumored to have killed Jimmy Hoffa.  What about his Sinatra biopic?  With “Sinatra” I am fearing he will once again force DiCaprio on us as Frank Sinatra.  I don’t think that would work, but I’ve been wrong before.

The “prestige” of “Shutter Island” let me down so much, once you get the rug pulled from underneath your feet, and you realize what the “twist” ending is – you’re going to love it, or your going to hate it.  After seeing the film, and thinking about it, I cannot even believe Martin Scorsese would have made a film such as this.  I’m not being harsh on this film, I just expect more from Scorsese.

Review: 6/10.

Author: Frank Mengarelli

Everybody relax, Frank's here. After going to film school at Columbia College Chicago, Frank decided to underachieve with his vast knowledge of film into a career in civil service. Frank had a brief stint as a film blogger, and then he met the heterosexual love of his life, Nick Clement. The two instantly bonded over their love from everything to Terence Malick to THE EXPENDABLES films. Some of Frank's favorite filmmakers are Terence Malick, Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, Sylvester Stallone, Oliver Stone and Spike Lee. Some of his favorite films are THE TREE OF LIFE, STAR WARS (all of them), BAD LIEUTENANT, THE THING and ALL THAT JAZZ. Frank spends his free time with his dog Roger, collecting any Star Wars collectible he can find and trying to finish his pretentious, first person narrative novel(la), LARGE MEN IN SMALL CARS..

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