Monday, February 22, 2010

Review: Shutter Island

After nearly a 2 month hiatus from going to the movies - a rather impressive feat for someone like myself who usually see's 2-4 new movies a month - I returned to the stadium seating of the Galaxy Highland theater last night in order to see Martin Scorsese's latest: Shutter Island. Let me start off by saying that Shutter Island makes me feel safe to go back to the movies again. After the most awful Oscar run up in years with nary an award worthy film to be found from September to December, I was left with a serious bad taste in my mouth. Even movies that I had wanted to see such as: The Book of Eli and The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnasus, I skipped in order to spare myself the disappointment, and these were films that I had already been prepared to be disappointed by! I simply couldn't go to the theater again and sit through another movie let down. Shutter Island has restored my faith in the industry, at least temporarily.

Shutter Island is Martin Scorsese and Leonardo Dicaprio up their old tricks again. This time it's the 1950's and a couple US Marshals have been called in to investigate a missing patient at an island asylum for the criminally insane. It becomes apparent early on that this isn't going to be any normal investigation and that there may be more going on here than just a missing mental patient. What ensues is a very Hitchcockian psychological thriller, perched precariously on the edge of sanity.

Scorsese is at the top of his game in terms of setting with this film in a way I haven't seen since Gangs of New York. Everything here feels spot on while just off kilter enough to be out of the ordinary, but not out of period. The script, the direction, the acting, and the set design all work together to create the place and the circumstances of this story with no attention to detail spared, a fact audiences will be thankful for 2/3 of the way through the film then they start putting together the pieces of this mystery themselves. There is no dearth of clues either, although you may not recognize them as clues at first glance.

As a frequent movie goer, I've been seeing trailers for this film for about 6 months now, if not more. While I didn't give it much thought, nor did I let it color my experience, I was fairly certain that I had figured out the twist in the plot from the trailers alone and on viewing the movie it turns out I was right. *Spoiler Start* There's a point in the trailer where you see a note that says "who is patient 67?" and then there's cut where Dicaprio asks someone where the 67th patient is or something like that. Well my mind immediately jumps to "Leo is the 67th patient and he doesn't know it" and I was right *Spolier End*; The thing is, getting there really was half the fun and even though I had figured it out, the story didn't hinge completely on simply knowing the twist. Understanding the nature of the twist and the intricacies involved in it ends up being much more important, which is where all those random clues come into play, resulting in many a face palm as people curse themselves for not having seen the connections sooner.

Ultimately, Shutter Island is still just Scorsese being Scorsese. The man has such a love of film that I firmly believe that 90% of the reason he shoots a given script is simply because it allows him to attempt a genre or style that he hasn't done before. He's not always successful, I am speaking of course as the only person who seems to not have liked The Departed, but I think with Shutter Island he gets a chance to play with some new toys while also being very successful at it. In the end, Shutter Island isn't going to win any awards, even if it hadn't been pushed from it's original October 2009 release. Shutter Island is a very good movie however and one that will reward repeated viewings. In an age where horror = torture porn and people are used to scary movies being all about startling sounds and visuals, Scorsese has crafted a creepy, intellectual thriller that manages to jump out and yell "boo" in a much more meaningful and lasting way.

1 comment:

  1. "has resotred my faith in the industry, at least temporarily"

    That's all I needed to hear. I already wanted to see Shutter Island, but now I'll make sure I see it in the theater :)