REVIEWED: 'Shutter Island'
Sometimes, I really wish movies didn’t have trailers. That, or I wish the people behind the previews would find more creative ways of garnering your attention without giving away too much. Shutter Island is one of those films that I guarantee you would have been much more effective had you gone in with the most limited amount of information. At the end of the day, it’s still a worthy movie-going experience, but don’t be too surprised if you solve the mystery long before the film ends.
Before setting out to see the film, I took a look at the kind of reviews it was getting, which is something I usually do. After all, why waste money on something that’s universally panned? Despite its mixed response, I decided that I’d make up my own mind and see if the film lived up to the high expectations I had for it. While I generally agree with the majority of film critics (except on a few occasions), I couldn’t understand why a large percentage of them hated this movie. It isn’t perfect, but to give it a "D" or an "F"? I think that’s a little harsh.
You never get bored watching it. That may not sound like much, but there are plenty of films that run over two hours that feel every bit as long as they are. In fact, there are some great moments here and there, like the scene where Teddy (Leonardo DiCaprio) first interacts with his deceased wife Dolores (Michelle Williams). Between the way the scene is lit and the manner in which the visuals are handled, it’s a pretty gorgeously orchestrated shot.
Martin Scorsese spared no expense with his top-notch cast, most of whom turn in some good performances. DiCaprio does a good job playing a Boston cop who’s determined to find a missing mental patient, though there’s clearly something a little off with him. Ben Kingsley was probably the most fun to watch as Dr. Cawley, the man who empathizes with the criminally insane, although his motives aren’t too clear.
He didn’t have a whole lot of screen time, but Ted Levine made the most of his time as the hospital’s warden, particularly in the scene where he’s driving with Teddy. I could have used more of Jackie Earle Haley as George Noyce, but whether I’m watching this, Watchmen or Little Children, I’m usually saying that about him. The Zodiac alums (Mark Ruffalo, John Carroll Lynch and Elias Koteas) were all fine in their respective roles, but I’d be lying if I said any of them was mesmerizing.
The main issue I had with the film (and the major reasoning I could see for why so many other critics were unimpressed) was the "twist" near the end. This is why I have such a problem with the trailer, because it takes away all the suspense from the big reveal. If you’ve seen the preview, you probably have a hunch who the 67th patient is. As soon as I came back from the movie and told my sister that the twist was a bit predictable, she took a guess at what it was. She was right.
One other beef I have with this film is the same beef I have with the majority of Scorsese’s films: the use of unnecessary, throwaway racial slurs. They typically only happen in small, blink-and-you-may-forget-hearing-them instances, but they do happen quite often, and they’re rarely ever needed. In this film, there’s an unstable patient who goes on a mini-rant about all the people who should be done away with, and he eventually mentions African-Americans, though he uses another word to describe them. I understand the point was to show how crazy he was, but you got that anyway. The scene could have easily played through without making you so uncomfortable.
The same kind of thing happens in The Departed, and Gangs of New York, and Goodfellas, and Taxi Driver. I know Scorsese didn’t write the script to Shutter Island and some of the others, but he does have a big say in what stays and what gets chucked, and I, for one, am a little tired of those uneasy (albeit brief) moments that don’t even add anything to the narrative.
My qualms aside, there is something to be said for a film that still manages to entertain you even if you’re put off by certain aspects of its makeup, or if you know what’s coming for the better part of its duration. As many other critics have stated, Shutter Island probably won’t make any all-time Scorsese best-of lists, but then again, what Hollywood director can honestly say everything they churned out was a masterpiece? Grade: B
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