There are some films which are difficult to discuss without giving away a spoiler, and Shutter Island is one such film. It is one of those films that the less you know about it, the better the first experience; therefore if you have not seen the film, please stop reading now.
Set in the 1950’s, US Marshall Teddy Daniels (Leonardo Di Caprio) and his partner Chuck (Mark Ruffalo) are called to investigate the disappearance of a young woman at a mental asylum on the mysterious Shutter Island. Upon investigation, it soon becomes clear that things are not as they should be on the island and Teddy begins to suspect that the mental asylum, headed by Dr Crawley (Sir Ben Kingsley), is actually being used for some mysterious government tests.
Shutter Island is by all means a good film. The story is excellent (as one would expect from a Dennis Lehane adaptation), it contains some excellent performances, most notably by Di Caprio who is outstanding in the title role, and the production design is so lovingly rendered that the film really brings to life its 1950s setting.
Out of all of Scorsese’s films, Shutter Island is perhaps most close in style to Cape Fear. It is a psychological horror which harks back to the classic suspense of films of the great Alfred Hitchcock, whose work clearly has a large influence on the film. The score in particular recalls the work of the great Bernhard Herrman, a long-time collaborator of Hitchcock and one of the highest regarded film composers of all time.
The film does have its flaws; my main issue being that it is over long and suffers from slow pacing in places. However, overall this was a film which I really enjoyed the first time I watched it, and, unusually for a ‘film with a twist’, it retained its appeal on a second viewing (unlike The Sixth Sense for example).
Not a classic by any means, and certainly not Scorsese’s best, but overall Shutter Island had enough period authenticity and atmosphere to keep me entertained.
And that much debated final line? – well, let’s just say it stayed with me for days. Definitely worth a watch.