CATEGORIES Reviews


There comes a time in 'Shutter Island' when you just want leading man Leonardo DiCaprio to jump off the island's rugged cliff and swim to safety, even if it means he dies trying. Maybe then he could escape his convoluted descent into insanity, and kindly take us with him.

Based on the novel by Dennis Lehane, 'Shutter Island' is one of those film anomalies where the cast is superb, the acting is convincing and the cinematography is breathtaking, yet somehow the finished product is unsatisfying. Director Martin Scorsese tried hard -- perhaps too hard -- to take Lehane's novel to the screen with precision, and in the process the point of the movie is buried beneath a rubble of cryptic clues. Even DiCaprio spends most of the movie with his head in his hands.

There comes a time in 'Shutter Island' when you just want leading man Leonardo DiCaprio to jump off the island's rugged cliff and swim to safety, even if it means he dies trying. Maybe then he could escape his convoluted descent into insanity, and kindly take us with him.

Based on the novel by Dennis Lehane, 'Shutter Island' is one of those film anomalies where the cast is superb, the acting is convincing and the cinematography is breathtaking, yet somehow the finished product is unsatisfying. Director Martin Scorsese tried hard -- perhaps too hard -- to take Lehane's novel to the screen with precision, and in the process, the point of the movie is buried beneath a rubble of cryptic clues. Even DiCaprio spends most of the movie with his head in his hands.

DiCaprio plays Federal Marshal Teddy Daniels, who's called to the eerie and isolated Shutter Island because a dangerous patient has escaped from the mental hospital housed there. He and his partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) venture over on the ferry with the intention of solving the case, but things start spiralling out of control as soon as the pair arrives. They discover much secrecy on the island, from the hospital staff to the teeming hordes of military men to the wide-eyed patients. After finding a mysterious note in the escaped patient's room, Daniels' thirst to find answers becomes unquenchable.



Many roadblocks and maddening questions impede him along the way, including the somewhat-shady Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley), whose shifty eyes make you want to strangle the answers out of him. You know he's holding something back, but you have to wait until literally the last second of the film to find out what's going on. Normally this would be fine in a mystery-suspense movie, but the puzzle pieces are apart for too long in 'Shutter Island', so when you reach the climax, it's far too late, and far too unbelievable. Everything is slapped together so haphazardly it's hard to take it seriously.

Just to make things more complicated, Daniels is also haunted by his own past, especially by his dead wife (played disturbingly well by a scary Michelle Williams). Interesting and often beautiful flashbacks in the form of vivid dreams keep providing more clues and anguish for Daniels. They're beautiful to watch, and they add a very necessary artsy component to the film. Without them, I dread to imagine what the end result might have been.

Things ever-so-slowly disintegrate into a muddled mess about halfway through, and just as our interest is supposed to be piqued, you want the whole thing to end. It's painful, too, because you know a ton of work went into the film, and you can truly appreciate the great acting, but somewhere along the way things fall apart.

Scorsese and DiCaprio may be the dream team of directing-acting, but even the greatest legacies have a down moment. This may just be the duo's rotten apple. Put it in a straitjacket, it's done.

Two stars out of four.