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In Review: Shutter Island

Updated on February 23, 2010

Do you plan on seeing Shutter Island?

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Worth A Look

Do you enjoy movie mysteries that are set in mental hospitals? Are you from Massachusetts and are curious as to what the old Medfield State Hospital (and other area locations) looks like on film? Is Leonardo DiCaprio your favorite actor and you’d see him in just about anything? If you answered in the positive to any or all of these questions, then it’s very likely that Shutter Island is the movie for you.

Set in Boston of 1954 and based on the 2003 novel of the same name by Dennis Lehane, Shutter Island tells the fictitious story of a U.S. Marshal named Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) who’s trying to a solve a mystery. Along with his new partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo), Teddy is sent to investigate the disappearance of a patient from a hospital for the criminally insane on an island in Boston Harbor. When it appears that none of the doctors or staff are willing to provide the marshals with the information they need to solve the case, Teddy decides they will find the information out on their own. At the same time, he will seek out the patient who was brought to the hospital after killing Teddy’s wife, Dolores (Michelle Williams). However, the island is being hit by a hurricane that, having downed power and phone lines, has made it impossible for the marshals to contact anyone off of the island. Early in their private investigation, Chuck disappears and Teddy is made aware that he is being brought into a trap. Will Teddy escape from the island? What happened to Chuck? Is there something evil happening at the lighthouse? To learn the answers to these questions, you must see the movie.

Directed by Martin Scorsese with a script by Laeta Kalogridis and Steven Knight, Shutter Island is not a half bad movie. In fact, despite how predictable the ending is the story movies well and the characters feel believable. As I’m from Massachusetts, Scorsese’s use of locations was fascinating to me and made me want to go explore these sites. Centering on the acting, Leonardo DiCaprio did his best with such a challenging role. While a somewhat older actor would have brought more depth to the character, it’s clear in how DiCaprio’s scenes were shot that the leading man and director have a true understanding of each other and this made up the difference. As his sidekick, Mark Ruffalo was fine and complimented DiCaprio. As the doctors pulling the strings, Ben Kingsley and Max von Sydow were as good as you would expect them to be. When you see this film, I’m sure you will agree that it was very well cast.

Like many movies of its genre, Shutter Island seeks to inform the audience of the dangers of over-medicating a patient and reminds us of the “necessary” experiments early “head doctors” had to conduct that mental health professionals of today would like to have us forget. It forces us to question our own definition of “sanity” and makes us realize that we are all a little crazy. What I liked most about Shutter Island is that it didn’t stand on a soapbox urging us to seek out the evil doctors who harm defenseless patients for the sake of furthering their careers nor did it romanticize a time in mental health history. Instead, it allowed us to figure things out on our own and make our own judgments. True, Shutter Island itself is just a movie, but it represents a whole lot more.

I would definitely recommend Shutter Island to people who want to see a film that makes you think and not just a movie that goes well with popcorn. While I wouldn’t say it’s flawless or an instant classic, it is a movie of merit told by a director who knows what he’s doing. Enjoy the movie!


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    • kea profile image

      kea 7 years ago

      Thanks for the review. I like movies that make me think and I like Leo and Martin. I may have to actually go to the theatre for this one, rather than wait for the DVD.