Comments on watching and making films.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Shutter Island

Martin Scorsese is one of American cinema's great artist's. He's earned that title from over forty years of making classic films (and, like many of his contemporaries - Coppola, Lucas, Spielberg, De Palma, etc. - has made his share of mistakes). The last decade has seen him team up with Leonardo DiCaprio and produce some of the best work of his career, including The Aviator, The Departed, and Gangs of New York. With his latest film with DiCaprio, Shutter Island, Scorsese doesn't miss the bar that he's set with those other films, but he doesn't quite hit it either. It's more like... He sidesteps it.

Shutter Island opens to a thick fog, and a ferry boat cutting through it, that carries DiCaprio's character Teddy Daniels. He's taking the ferry, with his new partner and fellow Federal Marshal Chuck Aule (played by Mark Ruffalo) to Shutter Island, a prison/asylum for Massachutses' worst criminals. We learn, as he reveals to Chuck, that his wife was burned to death in a fire in their apartment building, and the man who set the fire, Andrew Laedus, is here at Shutter Island. Of course, their here to solve the mystery of a missing inmate, but Teddy has Laedus on his mind. As the search for the missing inmate progresses, though, Teddy and Chuck begin to put two and two together, and realize that there is a lot more going on at Shutter Island than they fully understand, and if the staff has anything to do with it, they may not be going home.

It's hard to review this film without giving stuff away, but I will do my best. Visually this film is stunning. The acting is, for the most part, top notch. I thought Ruffalo was WAY off the mark, but, due to a twist in the story that I can't reveal, I realized only later on that his acting was actually quite amazing. It feels like Scorsese uses Kubrick's The Shining as a jumping off point for a lot of what goes on at the island, and his use of dream/fantasy sequences bring a bit of further dimensionality to what would otherwise be a straight up film-noir style crime procedural. On the other hand, some times these dream/fantasy sequences come off as a little tongue in cheek, and its not always easy to take them seriously (like the rat at the end of The Departed). Did I like Shutter Island? Yes and no. I would like to see it again, at some point, to REALLY make a decision. I think it's a well made movie, but I'm not completely sure it succeeds in the realm of entertainment.

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