#1  
Old 02-18-2010, 11:00 PM
Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island

Here's the link to the published version of my review in my column at The Richmond Examiner:

http://www.examiner.com/examiner/x-3...Shutter-Island



http://www.examiner.com/examiner/x-3...Shutter-Island

Shutter Island (2010)

After finally winning a Best Director Oscar back in 2007 (it only took about 30 years...), Martin Scorsese returns to the thriller genre which he hasn't done since "Cape Fear." Most known for his mafia films like "Goodfellas" and "The Departed," it's refreshing to see such a famed director try something different once in a while, and with "Shutter Island," he doesn't disappoint.

Set in 1954, Teddy Daniels (Leonardo Dicaprio) and Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) are US Marshals who have come to Ashecliffe (aka Shutter Island), a hospital for the criminally insane, in order to investigate the disappearance of one of the patients there. Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley), the doctor in charge, explains to them that it would be quite difficult to get out without someone seeing her, and it's as if she "evaporated through the walls." It's not as though there's any way she could have gotten far, seeing as how the institution is located on an island, most of which is surrounded by rock.

Strange occurrences begin to pop up: a piece of paper asking "who is 67?," a patient writing the word "run" in Teddy's notebook, Dr. Cawley's reluctance to give up any files on the staff or patients. Teddy's quest to find the missing patient leads him on a journey around the small island as small pieces of the puzzle are unfolded. There is certainly more going on at Ashecliffe than people are revealing.

What makes Scorsese's latest venture work so well is the way that it's structured. It begins with the initial plot of there being a missing patient that no one can find any trace of, but is that really what's going on here? About half way through, the film turns itself on its head and tells you it's about something completely different, but it's not through yet. By the end, it will have turned in a whole new direction.

While the film sets our mind churning at what the answer could possibly be, it gives us small pieces of background about the lead character, Teddy Daniels. Prior to becoming a US Marshal, he was in World War II in which he helped liberate a concentration camp. This is certainly something he never forgot, but what does it have to do with the rest of the story? It's merely another piece.

Another piece comes in the form of a man named Andrew Laeddis (Elias Koteas). He had set fire to the apartment building that Teddy and his wife had lived in, causing her death. The investigation leads Teddy to Ashecliffe where, according to a source, some weird things have been going on. Not to mention the source of funding for the island coming from HUAC (House Un-American Activities Committee). It is this kind of labyrinthine structure that makes the film particularly thrilling.

Where the film could have used some work was in its last 15 minutes or so. The big reveal here felt a little weaker than it should have due to the staging of the scene. Here we have everything coming to a head, and what we get are some of the characters standing there and explaining it to us. It could have used a little more flare when bringing about the emotional impact that this scene is intended to have. Luckily, most of that emotional impact is still there because of the strong plot twist.

Another small problem came with the way the ending was dragged out a little too long. The big reveal is unveiled, then it spends a good ten minutes hammering it in until one final important scene. It could have stood to be cut down a bit so that the emotional impact would be greater, instead of allowing it to dissipate as the pivotal ending scene keeps going and going. But as I said, the impact is still there, and is capped off rather nicely with a flashback.

Dicaprio plays this one pretty straightforward. He's a marshal on a mission who truly wants to find out what happened to this patient, but who also wants to uncover the mysteries of Shutter Island. We are also treated to performances from some well-known actors who don't get a lot of screentime including Max von Sydow as another doctor, Jackie Earle Haley as a patient, Patricia Clarkson, and Emily Mortimer.

This may not be a masterpiece like "Goodfellas," but it is one that will stick in your head because of the strange journey it takes you on and a somewhat ambiguous ending. Its mysteries will pull you in several different directions before it's over. Who better to be pulling you in those different directions than one of the great masters of cinema? 3.5/4 stars.

Last edited by Hal2001; 02-19-2010 at 12:08 PM..
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  #2  
Old 02-25-2010, 12:57 PM
Movie was a huge disappointment. I figured out the twist in the first five minutes and so did my friend, wtf? When it finally played out all I could hope for was an additional twist ending, but that never happened. Truly lame ending for anyone with any foresight.

Spoiler:
Why would he be looking for his partner after he saw his body getting pummeled by waves, assuming he fell off the cliff. Certainly he would be dead after that fall, so why would you ask the lady in the cave if she'd seen him, or the Kingsly in the end at the light house. Why wouldn't you just assume he was dead? Why show the body laying on the rocks, when they could have just shown the smoking cigarette at the top of the cliff and left it at that?



Great acting by Leo, and others. The scenes look beautiful. Still though, I expected something better. Martin Scorsese wasn't up to his usual standards. Ultimately a forgettable film.

Leo's face is getting fat. Dude's jaw looked like Brando's in the Godfather.

6/10


How could anyone not see the twist?
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  #3  
Old 02-25-2010, 01:24 PM
EDIT.

I responded to your post in the Current Movie Talk section.

Last edited by Bourne101; 02-25-2010 at 01:27 PM..
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  #4  
Old 02-27-2010, 01:39 PM
*** WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR SHUTTER ISLAND ***






(Martin Scorsese, 2010)

Martin Scorsese is one of the greatest directors to have ever emerged in the history of film, and it is a joyous miracle that such a legend is still working today. Not only that, but these last few years Scorsese has really reached the peak of his career: he finally won an Oscar and his last few movies have been the most financially successful of his entire career. As a direct result of his legendary status and lengthy career, Scorsese has definitely earned the right to make whatever movies he wants to – If he shot excrement for an hour-and-a-half I would probably watch it. Luckily for us, though, his advanced years and many films, some of which are masterpieces of modern cinema, have not hampered or decreased the quality of his filmmaking in any way – in fact, his last few films were made with uncharacteristic energy and vitality for a director nearing his 70th birthday. His latest film, Shutter Island – his first narrative feature since his Oscar win for The Departed four years ago – is perhaps a bit of a departure from his usual fare and style. But it is still undeniably a Scorsese picture, as it transcends its genre and features many of the characteristics that identify his previous films. It’s just a little harder to find them this time.

Before delving into the more debatable aspects of the film, I first want to mention its undeniably successful aspects, which are mainly cosmetic but are most prominent indeed. Scorsese’s visual language has always been highly stylized, but this movie puts even Goodfellas and The Aviator to the test, and serves to be one of Scorsese’s most hyper-stylized films yet. And with the aid of one of the greatest and most unique cinematographers working today, Robert Richardson, it also becomes what is ultimately probably Scorsese’s best-looking film. Richardson’s trademark style of direct-from-above spot-lighting, diffusion lenses and overexposure work overtime on this film as we drift between reality and dreams with a wink of an eye. But it’s not just the cinematography that’s at work here: we are treated to fedoras and trench-coats, characters puffing on cigarettes every chance they get, dripping sewers, rusty iron gates, flickering lights, creaking wood: This is Scorsese’s ode to the old film-noir mystery thrillers from the 40’s and 50’s that he probably meticulously studied and analyzed at film school and that no doubt influenced his filmmaking from the beginning. Accompanied by an impressive collection of creepy and ominous musical selections, the whole thing plays out like a grand old-fashioned, highly stylized detective movie. But that’s too simple for Scorsese, and the film quickly reveals itself to be far more than just that.

Another greatly impressionable element of the film is its acting, specifically the lead performance by Leonardo DiCaprio. Leo was always talented – there’s no need to look any further than one of his earliest film roles in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape for a testament to his abilities – but he has truly blossomed as an actor under Martin Scorsese’s wing. His performance in Gangs of New York was a little uneven, but no less than two years after that film came out he delivered the finest performance of his career, in The Aviator. This is his fourth collaboration with Scorsese and in it he delivers one of the finest performances of his career: it is a ferocious, bombastic and intense performance that despite its grandiose is still filled with subtlety and finesse: DiCaprio has a complex character to play and he nails every gesture and every motion. Like his other recent films, Shutter Island is blessed with an incredible ensemble cast filled to the brim with famous names as well as lesser-known but immensely talented character actors who really bring an extra quality when Scorsese lets them go all-out. In terms of the major supporting performances, both Mark Ruffalo and Ben Kingsley do a fantastic job at playing simple but crucial characters whom we learn know more than we may have thought, and who keep that knowledge subtly under wraps all throughout. There are also a number of character actors who only have one appearance but who really stand out and totally steal their individual scenes, including Jackie Earle Haley, Patricia Clarkson and Elias Koteas.

It seems like a big waste to review this film without discussing its plot, and it is impossible to discuss its plot without also discussing the ending. Or is it? I have to admit that I had a pretty rocky reaction to the film’s plot, and my opinion fluctuated multiple times over the past few days until I finally settled on what I really felt. Like many, I caught on to the “twist” ending fairly early on in the film – things the characters said, the way they reacted to Teddy, the fact that, pretty much from the beginning, we are never quite sure what Teddy is dreaming and what is really happening. The hints are just so heavy and obvious, and the “twist” so predictable, that I immediately started thinking that perhaps Scorsese never intended for this surprise ending to be much of a surprise at all. Indeed, he certainly doesn’t treat the “revelation” scene as most other directors do: In the film, we don’t see flashbacks to all the hints that were dropped throughout the movie, Teddy doesn’t seem convinced at all and the reveal isn’t very dramatic, quite the contrary: it is told in a very straightforward and matter-of-fact manner. We are quite positive that the characters are telling the truth, because it is such an obvious and fitting solution – but Teddy, the protagonist, remains unconvinced. All this and more led me to thinking that, unlike many other examples I can think of, Shutter Island doesn’t hinge on its twist. Rather, its ending reveals a crucial piece of information that leads us to finally understanding the character of the protagonist, whom had remained mostly a mystery throughout the film. It’s nothing more than the logical conclusion of the events that unfolded. But what keeps me thinking is why Scorsese had the first two hours of the film so stylized? Most of the movie still plays out like a pretty straightforward mystery/conspiracy-thriller, with conviction, and only at the end does the tone really change. Perhaps the theatricality is merely another part of the elaborate role-play the psychiatrists ran in order to finally rid Teddy of his split personality? Perhaps the psychiatrists watched too many conspiracy thrillers from the 50’s (when the movie is set), and they directly influenced how the role-play played out?

At first, my initial reaction to the ending was that it was a cop-out. But the more I thought about it, the more and more I likened it to the ending of Memento, whose revelation is a direct and logical result of the protagonist's mental illness, and the less I likened it to the ending of, say, Identity, which relies on its big reveal to provide a cheap “shock” to the audience to make them feel like what they watched is worthwhile. Perhaps what was missing from Shutter Island is a further exploration of Teddy's mental illness: I think that Scorsese could have strived to reach for more of a balance, like in A Beautiful Mind, which has its big “reveal” somewhere in the middle of the film, when we realize that Nash is not caught up in an espionage conspiracy but is rather a paranoid-schizophrenic, and the rest of the movie depicts his dealing with the illness which prevents the movie from completely revolving around the big twist.

At first glance, Shutter Island seems like an excuse for Scorsese to demonstrate that he is also capable of delivering highly stylized genre cinema: A good, old-fashioned, moody, atmospheric psychological thriller in which the fedora-and-trench coat-wearing detective finds himself caught up in a massive conspiracy. But fairly early on, when the World War II flashbacks begin to kick in, we already start to feel that there is something more at work. At first I was a little turned off by the film's finale, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it served a greater purpose. Scorsese is too good to have his film revolve around a "twist" ending: rather, it becomes a direct continuation of and sheds important light on the nature of the main character. So ultimately, what starts out as a particularly thrilling and stylish piece of genre fiction, eventually reveals itself to be a fascinating and resonant character study. I knew I could count on Scorsese to deliver something more profound than just another exercise in style. And while not quite on the level of his most powerful films, it’s still good, and definitely better than any other director could have done with the source material.

RATING: 8/10.
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  #5  
Old 03-03-2010, 10:51 AM
Following up Monotreme's incredible review and analysis with my own:

Quote:
There is one line of dialogue, right at the end of Shutter Island before the credits roll, that elevates the emotion of the film and makes it much more powerful. For those of you, like me, who read and enjoyed the novel before seeing the film and felt that the trailers and advertisements for this film were leading you to believe there wouldn’t be any narrative surprises in store, think again! Scorsese’s film features that one brief piece of dialogue at the films conclusion that results in an entirely different perception of the final act. The rest of the film, however, is very faithful to Dennis Lehane’s already great story.

Shutter Island represents exactly what one should hope for when seeing a novel being interpreted to film. While it certainly does the source material justice, it also adds small changes that make for a distinctive experience. Even if you’ve read the novel multiple times, you’ll feel like you’re reading the book for the first time again while watching. Scorsese perfectly recreates the menacing atmosphere of the island on film. Every location is foreboding and drenched with hints of unseen danger in dark corners. The lighthouse, the caves, the civil war fort housing "the most dangerous patients," and the island itself--every locale seems large yet claustrophobic and isolated at the same time.

I often experience claustrophobia myself and there are certain films that really capitalize on that personal fear and make it more relevant and eerie to me. Neil Marshall's The Descent was one such picture, and this is another. An confined island is a terrific horror location and it comes with its own type of fear. The utter desperation to escape from a persistent and confined nightmare is something Teddy (Dicaprio) is receiving in high doses, and so does the audience.

As with Scorsese and DiCaprio's previous collaborations, this is a movie that must be seen. Here they explore the horror/thriller genre with gravitas, with no small part played by Laeta Kalogridis in supplying the screenplay. While most modern pictures of its kind lack character or any real sense of suspense, Shutter Island doesn’t go for cheap gags. I concur with Ebert when he says one of the key elements to this film is that it releases its tension through suspense instead of mindless action sequences. That's not to knock a well-deserved frenetic scene of violence every once in awhile--it works to the advantage of some film like Evil Dead II and Planet Terror--but had Teddy and Chuck gone running and gunning through down the facility's faculty, the mood this movie keeps in check so well would have been lost.

However, that mood isn't sacrificed and "spooky" is punched up to full force. A considerable amount of that spooky is generated by a “best of” collection of actors that have mastered the art of creepy: Ben Kingsley, Jackie Earle Haley, Ted Levine, and Max von Sydow just to name a few. Had Tom Noonan been thrown in the cast as well, my "Top Five People I Would Not Want to Be Left in the Dark with, Especially in a Room with No Doors or Windows" list would have been completely exhausted. On that note, is it just me or has Sydow mysteriously not aged since The Exorcist? Was there a secret pact made between Lucifer and Father Merrin?

Whether he sold his soul or not, he’s quite ominous in every single scene he is present in. All of this great talent in front of the camera doesn’t mean anything though if you don’t have a faithful orchestrator behind it. Luckily you have Scorsese leading the lense and he points the movie in the right direction, even if this isn’t among his very best works. His style works amazingly with suspense laden projects and at times he even seems to channel Hitchcock and Kubrick, though there’s always something distinctively Scorsese about the presentation. I found the editing in the opening scene, with Chuck and Teddy approaching Shutter Island, to be very odd and frantic, though I think I know why Scorsese displayed the scene the way he did. Scorsese is always deliberate in every decision he decided on a film and that’s one of the main ingredients that makes him the phenomenal filmmaker he is.

With a body of work so impressive, Shutter Island is among captivating company. The good news is that Shutter Island carves out a place of its own in his resume. While no Goodfellas or Raging Bull or Taxi Driver, I have no problem placing Shutter side by side The Last Temptation of Christ and Bringing Out the Dead. The cinematography is bright and gorgeous. Scorsese doesn’t rely on the over-grainy, ugly presentation that most modern horror or suspense-riddled thrillers rely on. He uses lush, bright color during daytime and dream sequences to flush out a distinct feeling of terror.

Shutter Island isn’t just a pretty face, its also got a great story to boot and this is why I’ve been anticipating the film for so long. As mentioned earlier, I’ve been exposed and digested the source material myself before seeing the movie. I was worried the trailers for the film were giving away too much through their spots on television and on the silver screen, but Scorsese has added enough to the film for the story to feel fresh even for those “in the know.” You are transferred in the films paranoia and phobia once the camera pans through the mental facilities open doors. Lehane is one of the luckiest authors on the planet to have his work adapted to the big screen by talents such as Eastwood and Scorsese, but his work is brilliant and deserving of such treatment.

At the risk of spoiling plot points for potential viewers who have not read the book, I’ll leave a Related Recommendations section concealed in "Spoiler" tags. Discussing this story at any length can be quite revealing. Luckily Schmoes have been quite good in conveying their thoughts thus far and haven't unveiled anything too dire. I hope my thoughts have been helpful

So, Related Recommendations (if you dare!):
Spoiler:
Jacob's Ladder, The Game, The Shining, A Clockwork Orange, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Session 9, The Silence of the Lambs, Storm of the Century, The Thing, Cape Fear



Last edited by FireCaptain4; 03-03-2010 at 10:54 AM..
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  #6  
Old 06-10-2010, 05:57 PM
boring film.
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  #7  
Old 06-11-2010, 03:10 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by rocknblues81 View Post
boring film.
Wow, what a pertinent and insightful comment. Thanks for that.

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  #8  
Old 06-11-2010, 05:14 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Monotreme View Post
Wow, what a pertinent and insightful comment. Thanks for that.

What else is there to say?

Do people have to whine and on and on about a movie if they don't like it.

I mean, I didn't think it had any real notable plot holes are anything, but I never got invested in it's predictable story. I'm not a big Leo fan either. He forces his performances and I almost never buy into the character he is supposed to be playing.

It's overlong... And I say that with The Assassination of Jesse James and The New World being two of my favorite films from the last decade.

None of my latest rentals from Redbox have been good. That crappy list includes The Lovely Bones, Avatar, Shutter Island, Daybreakers, Legion, 2012, The Stepfather and Sherlock Homes. Well, The Road was solid, but lots of crappy movies from the last year.
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  #9  
Old 06-11-2010, 05:17 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by FireCaptain4 View Post
Following up Monotreme's incredible review and analysis with my own:

You should add The Machinist to your list.
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  #10  
Old 06-11-2010, 06:42 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by rocknblues81 View Post
What else is there to say?

Do people have to whine and on and on about a movie if they don't like it.

I mean, I didn't think it had any real notable plot holes are anything, but I never got invested in it's predictable story. I'm not a big Leo fan either. He forces his performances and I almost never buy into the character he is supposed to be playing.

It's overlong... And I say that with The Assassination of Jesse James and The New World being two of my favorite films from the last decade.

None of my latest rentals from Redbox have been good. That crappy list includes The Lovely Bones, Avatar, Shutter Island, Daybreakers, Legion, 2012, The Stepfather and Sherlock Homes. Well, The Road was solid, but lots of crappy movies from the last year.
No, you don't have to whine, and of course, you are entitled to your opinion. I was just hoping to get a little more insight into exactly what you didn't enjoy about it, because I was genuinely interested.

I always find it funny that when people love a film, they can gush about it for paragraphs and paragraphs, analyzing and discussing and explaining everything that's good about a film. And yet when people DON'T like a film, they usually never bother to write more than two words. I mean, no offense, but I'm just saying: If you want to express an opinion, let's hear it, and not some concise, empty, two-word version of it.
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  #11  
Old 06-11-2010, 07:36 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Monotreme View Post
No, you don't have to whine, and of course, you are entitled to your opinion. I was just hoping to get a little more insight into exactly what you didn't enjoy about it, because I was genuinely interested.

I always find it funny that when people love a film, they can gush about it for paragraphs and paragraphs, analyzing and discussing and explaining everything that's good about a film. And yet when people DON'T like a film, they usually never bother to write more than two words. I mean, no offense, but I'm just saying: If you want to express an opinion, let's hear it, and not some concise, empty, two-word version of it.
Sometimes you just don't enjoy a movie. Sometimes you just don't find it interesting. There isn't always things to discuss.

Perhaps you shouldn't try to tell other people how to express themselves.

I wasn't interested from the start. The story never drew me in and neither did the performances. It's really as simple as that. It's not a complete wreck, but it was a very disappointing and it doesn't feel like a Marty film to me at all.
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  #12  
Old 06-12-2010, 04:51 AM
That's fine and good. But you must understand how frustrating it is when someone just completely cancels out something you enjoy in one fell swoop with one, grand, concise claim like you did. I know this is getting really nitpicky and curmudgeony, but even if you would have just written "This film bored me" instead of "boring film" as if it's some sort of fact, I wouldn't be so riled up about it.
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  #13  
Old 06-12-2010, 07:11 AM
Well, another masterpiece by the best living director. 10/10.

BTW, didn't Brian DePalma direct Cape Fear???
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  #14  
Old 06-12-2010, 08:41 AM
No, it was Scorsese.
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  #15  
Old 06-12-2010, 10:58 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by PSU80 View Post
Well, another masterpiece by the best living director. 10/10.

BTW, didn't Brian DePalma direct Cape Fear???
Good thing he didn't... Because then Cape Fear would have sucked like a lot De Palma movies.
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  #16  
Old 06-13-2010, 04:58 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by rocknblues81 View Post
Good thing he didn't... Because then Cape Fear would have sucked like a lot De Palma movies.
Actually gonna have to agree with you on this one... :P For every Carrie, Scarface and Untouchables, there's a Body Double, Mission to Mars and Redacted. Poor guy.
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