Welcome to my blog. Here you will find details of my progress towards watching all films in the IMDB Top 250 List along with other random film musings. Enjoy!

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

IMDB Review #247: Shutter Island

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.

Rating 8/10


wizzardSS said...

Looking forward to my second viewing as it will be from a completely different perspective, but Shutter Island has to be one of my all-time favourites.

That said, the ending was done exactly the same in "The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari", but is still fantastic anyway.

Jack Ibbetson said...

Like what you're doing here. Anyone else know the film in the top banner? Kokate:39th Battalion. don't watch it/

Craig French said...

Is that the picture of the guy in the hat? I must say, I did wonder where those pictures were from! I'm guessing it's awful?

@wizardSS - not seen the cabinet of dr caligari but just read your review and it has intrigued me! I'm looking forward to watching it now!

Anonymous said...

Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is certainly worth watching as a film, but also in how much it contributed to the evolution of cinema. It was one of those stepping stones of the art.

As for Shutter Island, I don't particularly understand the comparison to the classic Caligari film.
From all of the 11 Scorsese films I have been able to watch, Shutter Island was the least successful in my opinion.
I think the movie is a bit overwrought, the twist is not surprising (I saw it coming from early on) and the repetitive nightmares/visions/flashbacks that Di Caprio's character experiences are oddly presented, getting in the way of the flow of the film.
I walked out of the film thinking it had tried too hard to be something it could not be. It was not particularly scary, or dramatic, or romantic. In fact, I think it suffered from a lack of focus, as it tried to capture all of these genres.
The acting was superb, I agree with that, but I think Shutter Island is greatly overrated and I believe it partly has to do with the fact that Scorsese is the director.
I frankly believe Shutter Island would not even be close to the TOP 250 at IMDB if it had not been made by the great Martin.


Craig French said...


I agree that Shutter Island is by no means one of Scorsese's best films and it wouldn't be in my top 5 Scorsese films. However I think that is testament to the extremely high quality of his previous body of work - Goodfella's, Raging Bull, Taxi Driver, Casino, Cape Fear, Mean Streets etc are all excellent films and I struggle to think of a Scorsese film which I disliked (Gangs of New York wasn't great and I though The Aviator was overlong but I wouldn't say I disliked them.

It is hard to disagree that some of Scorsese's films are perceived as better than they ought to be given The Departed won best Oscar - again a good film but not anywhere near the best film of that year for me and certainly not one of Scorsese's top 5 - but I really do think that Shutter Island did what it was supposed to.

It was an excellent period piece with superb production design and I think it got a good balance of the 'thriller' and 'mystery' elements in there.

Sure, the 'twist' may be predictable but I don't think it is a film which relies as heavily on its twist as, say, The Sixth Sense. For me, the film has more depth and complexity to it than simply being about trying to fool the viewer and I really enjoyed it.

Does it deserve to be in the Top 250 in my opinion? Maybe. It may scrape a place in the bottom of my list but would certainly not feature any higher.

Having said all of that, a few of my mates also think it is overrated - it seems to be a film that has split opinion. I guess we will just have to agree to disagree on this one!

Thanks for your comment - it certainly made me consider my opinion of the film!

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