I saw Shutter Island Friday.
I have to admit, I was a little surprised by this one. I’m not entirely sure what I expected here, but it wasn’t this. Incidentally, I’m not a big Leonardo DiCaprio fan, but he did a really good job with this one, as did the rest of the pretty amazing cast, including Ben Kingsley, Max von Sydow, Michelle Williams, Patricia Clarkson, Jackie Earle Haley, and Ted Levine, to name a few.
DiCaprio plays Teddie Daniels, a U.S. Marshal investigating a disappearance on the infamous detention facility for the criminally insane, Shutter Island. Apparently, this very special and secure federal institution has a secret, too, and Daniels has an axe to grind in finding it. We meet Daniels on the ferry to the island, getting very seasick in the head. We meet his partner, Chuck Aule, played by Mark Ruffalo, at the same time he does, on the ferry. They’re met at the only dock on the island, the only safe way on or off, by the assistant warden who informs them of the rules, which include surrendering their sidearms. Obviously, they’re not happy about that, but it’s the only way the doctors in charge will let the Marshals into the patient wards to investigate.
The institution is separated into three wards; Ward A for the male offenders, Ward B for the female offenders, and Ward C for the ultravolent cases. The patient who disappeared vanished from her cell in Ward B was the delusional murderer of her children and, frankly, doesn’t seem like she’s capable of escaping from this sort of prison. But, that’s not the real reason Daniels is here.
Teddy Daniels has come to Shutter Island because something’s not right. People come to the island and all record of them is lost. People with relatively minor problems come back from the island broken, changed, and more unstable and dangerous than when they went there, though most are simply never heard from again. And one former “patient” told Daniels that they’re doing experiments on the patients, surgeries that make the most violent men easier to control, but no less violent. That, and the search for what happened to the man who’s responsible for his wife’s death, are the real reason that Daniels has come to Shutter Island. But, even that’s not so straight forward.
Now, before I give too much away, because frankly, there are more plot twists in this movie than any I can think of in recent memory. Keep in mind, this is all happening in a mental institution, so many things, and people, aren’t what they seem. Also, the movie takes place a few years after World War II, so there are plenty of references to veterans and what we now call post traumatic stress syndrome. And, yes, Daniels is a war veteran who helped liberate Dachau, so that factors into some of the plot.
This is far from a straight, linear, direct movie. And, while there is plenty of action, it’s mostly a psychological thriller. In fact, though I did like the film quite well, the first two-thirds of the movie are actually quite slow. Things pickup near the last third and then run from there through the end. And, while this is a bit of a spoiler, the ending leaves you wondering just a little bit what’s really just happened. It’s pretty remarkable, actually, and still a satisfying ending.
So, while I don’t think this was a great movie, it certainly was very good. DiCaprio did a very good job of portraying a driven man, who had issues, and was spun through a bewildering psychological landscape. Of course, Ben Kingsley and Max von Sydow were fantastic as the slightly sinister doctors who had some mystery they were trying to hide. Really, the entire cast delivered good individual performances. There were a few weak scenes and a couple of holes in the plot, but, by the time you get to the end of the movie, I think those inconsistencies are actually explained, at least in an indirect way.
It’s an interesting film and well worth seeing. If you are a DiCaprio fan, you’ll definitely want to see this movie. However, if you just want to see something different than I think you’ll see all year. Incidentally, based on a book, this really is an unusual story these days, especially to see from Hollywood. In fact, one of the things I liked about this movie was that it was a bit of a surprise to me how some of the plot ran, which is pretty unusual, frankly. Not that I’m a genius or anything, but I read a lot and see a lot of films and when you combine that with my own study of plot and attempts at writing, plots become sort of predictable after a bit. So, again, there are some pretty surprising twists in the plot that make this movie really different and interesting.
In the end, I think this movie was well done and well worth the money to see it in the theater. Go check it out for yourself and see if you agree. I think you’ll like this one.