Thursday, 18 March 2010
Plot Summary: Drama is set in 1954, U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels is investigating the disappearance of a murderess that escaped from a hospital for the criminally insane and is presumed to be hiding on the remote Shutter Island.
A new film release from legendary film director Martin Scorsese (director of such classics as Raging Bull, Taxi Driver and Goodfellas) is always going to be a big deal and Shutter Island is no exception. His follow up to 2006’s The Departed has been a long time coming, not least because it was delayed for four months, but it’s now gracing screens across the country. Based upon Dennis Lehane’s novel of the same name Shutter Island is an interesting mystery come thriller which borrows heavily from the likes of Val Lewton and Alfred Hitchcock throughout. It feels almost needless to say, this is Scorsese we’re dealing with here, but the film really is expertly put together. Considering this and the potential of the set-up of the story, Shutter Island could have been one of the director’s best but it is unfortunately held back by its misguided pacing and a somewhat weak conclusion.
As mentioned, and from the very first shot of a ferryboat emerging from ominous misty seas, the film-making pedigree on display here is as spellbinding as you’d expect. Scorsese and his crew really push themselves and the result is a joy to witness. Shutter Island is beautifully photographed and the imagery captured in decaying ruins, gothic architecture and surreal dream sequences could easily stand alone outside of the film. The sound design and editing also deserve a mention here as both are used in unconventional and surprising ways to further bring the audience into Teddy’s emotionally complex mindset. Jump cuts, would-be continuity errors, mismatched lip synch and layers of sound all work together to express the fractured state of our central character’s mind.
The acting, ranging from relative newcomers to experienced veterans of the screen, is thoroughly convincing and is typical of the calibre of film-making on display. Scorsese does a brilliant job of setting up the secretive and questionable nature of the titular Shutter Island; creating a truly living environment and a very involving and mysterious tone. The story that unravels on the island is a compelling throwback detective thriller and will keep you guessing as to what is going on in the institution and indeed, Teddy’s mind. Shutter Island isn’t a horror film (the closest it comes is during the scenes in the illusive ‘Ward C’) but certainly draws upon the genre and produces a strangely compelling eerie atmosphere. This is aided by the selection of modern classical pieces supervised by Robbie Robertson which really convey the haunted feel of the film.
Not all, however, is well on Shutter Island. The film makes many twists and turns and many possible outcomes are hinted at but the final reveal is a very disappointing one. You know when you guess an ending early on and think, “No, it can’t be that easy to figure out”. Well guess what? With Shutter Island, it really is. This is a shame as the film is better than that and could have done something much more interesting with the story. This is, on the other hand, saved slightly by a very powerful final line which poses many more questions than it answers. There is also a slight pacing issue present as the third act struggles to keep up the momentum it has so carefully built up and it becomes a bit dull until the aforementioned reveal. Shutter Island is very well made film from a man who clearly knows what he’s doing and is certainly an enjoyable experience overall, but it could have done with a much more intellectually rewarding ending and a shorter running time.
Final Verdict: 7/10