Director: Martin Scorsese
Writer: Laeta Kalogridis
Release Date: August 2 2010
Studio: Paramount Home Entertainment
Number of discs: 1
Price: From £9.99
Running Time: 133 mins
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Max von Sydow, Michelle Williams, Emily Mortimer, Patricia Clarkson, John Carroll Lynch, Elias Koteas
Before Shutter Island even appeared on mainstream release, Scorsese cleverly played with viewers by using the trailer to trick them into expecting a straight-forward horror film and luring them into a false comfort zone of misplaced preconceived notions.
On the surface Shutter Island is about US Marshall Teddy Daniel’s investigation of missing patient, Rachel (Emily Mortimer, Patricia Clarkson) at Ashecliff mental asylum on Shutter Island. Armed with his own agenda, Teddy’s investigation is not so straight-forward – Teddy seeks another patient, Andrew Laeddis, the man who burnt down his home and in doing so, killed his wife, Dolores (Michelle Williams).
Having previously met an ex-Ashecliff inmate and with the knowledge that the asylum is funded by The House of American Activities Committee, Teddy suspects the clinically insane are being used as guinea pigs for mind experiments and decides to blow Ashecliff’s cover and save all the human lab rats. As Teddy and his partner Chuck, try to find all the missing pieces of the jigsaw, Teddy becomes increasingly obsessed with uncovering the truth of the identity of the 67th patient and exploring the infamous ward C.
When the back-up generator fails in the storm, the whole electrical system fries and with the chaos this brings, Teddy is finally able to explore the lighthouse. Positioned at the bottom of a craggy cliff face covered in poison ivy on a rocky islet surrounded by a security fence and monitored by a guard, the lighthouse is where Teddy believes they open up patients’ brains, performing brain surgery to create the “ghosts” to go out into the world and do things sane men would never do. And all protected by the notion that: “People tell the world that you are crazy and any protest to the contrary just proves otherwise.”
Long before the credits start to roll, Shutter Island morphs from a crime thriller with horrific undertones into a mind-bending ingenious piece of psychological trickery. Its challenging plot line weaves between the past, present, future, make believe and down right delusional.
Shutter Island is located in the middle of the ocean accessible only by a limited ferry service the government control. After two days of its claustrophobic isolation and punishing climate, Teddy starts to get horrific migraines; begins to mistrust and doubt his partner’s intentions; is haunted by the voices of ghosts telling him he “should have saved [them]” re-setting “like a tape playing” and is tortured by traumatic visions of concentration camp mass exterminations and piles of frozen corpses.
Abound with disturbing flashbacks and haunting dream sequences and full of intrigue, Shutter Island is bleak and dire, questioning moral order, the definition of sanity, what makes the individual and the value of man. DiCaprio creates a range in Teddy’s character, successfully depicting the “tough guy” veneer for this troubled soul, while Ben Kingsley makes a mildly humorous humane Doctor Cawley and Mark Ruffalo plays the sympathetic partner.
An expertly executed psychological masterpiece to make you question your own sanity, Shutter Island sits proudly among Scorsese’s impressive body of varied and always captivating work. Testimony to his range as director, Scorsese explores the horror/thriller genre with gravitas, leaving us to ponder if it “ would be worse, to live as a monster or to die as a good man?”
- Behind the Shutters
- Into the Lighthouse