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THE F*CKING BLACK SHEEP: Shutter Island (2010)

Jul. 23, 2010by: Ryan Doom

THE BLACK SHEEP is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATH. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Dig in!

SHUTTER ISLAND (2010)
Directed by Martin Scorsese

"A walking clich with a plot so stupid that I could never, ever bite "

Let me be upfront. I love Scorsese. In my eyes, the man can do no wrong (or so I thought). And for the most part during his forty-year career, the dude has made some of the best movies of all time and had few if any missteps. A regular steady Eddie. Likewise, Leo DiCaprio has impressed the hell out of me. Hes morphed from that skinny Titanic kid into an old school serious actor, slipping into roles and tackling interesting and mostly diverse characters. Sure, he sports the same little facial hair in every single movie no matter the period (does that make it his trademark like B. Reynoldss mustache?), but he does a good job of disappearing into the roles (or so I thought). He becomes a character, not just an actor. So with all my man love, wheres the beef with Shutter Island, a massive box office hit and Scorseses ode to Hitchcock?

Shutter Island stands as the one true disappointment in the Scorsese/DiCaprio marriage. Its a walking clich with a plot so stupid that I could never, ever bite. Scorsese intended to make a classy horror film filled with rich colors, excellent clothing, great sets, and classy music. He accomplished that feat, but thats all. Style over substance. Flash over flesh. Shutter Island presents itself as important, as if filled with actual mystery and intrigue like a true Hitchcock film, which is part of the problem. Its not a Hitchcock movie. Hitchcocks main characters were normal guys stuck in abnormal situations. They were likeable, identifiable, and most of all, authentic. Whenever one of his characters questioned their sanity or the sanity of a situation, its because his normal world had already been defined so clearly. Thus it avoided many trappings of formula horror. Shutter Island though never establishes any of that as it begins with a ferry emerging from a thick fog into a world that never seems real. And if the world of the movie never feels authentic, then the central character stands as good as a chance at feeling real as a goddamn veggie burger. Fake is fake.

Now I can imagine some readers bitching that this aint a Hitchcock film. True, but it wants to achieve that level of classic. Even Leo attempts a Hitchcock-like character (something close to Jimmy Stewarts Scotty from Vertigo whos a haunted man who sees things) in his performance as Marshall Teddy Daniels. He tries to create a man who wants justice. Hes supposed to be a hard-nosed fed haunted by the horrors of his past, a man on a mission to discover the truth behind the mysterious lighthouse, to find patient number 67, and blah, blah, blah. The character never dives any deeper than that brief character description. It just doesnt work. Leos performance feels forced, feels acted. Shutter Island is about the vague differences between reality and fiction, but portraying nuts isnt an easy thing to do, especially not when you dont give a shit about the character to begin with.

Teddys hunt for his evil side, Andrew Laeddis, gives the film a purpose, a drive to seek revenge. (SPOILERS AHEAD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) When the image of Laeddis comes alive in one of the 1,252 dreams sequences in the film, it speaks to the lack of originality with his zipper scarred face ala Frankensteins monster and his disagreeable negative tone. The movie tries so hard to be mysterious and coy that nothing of true interest ever develops. Part of the problem is that it lives in flashbacks where Teddy is understandably haunted by the death of his drowned children. If anything drives me nuts, its flashbacks, and boy does Shutter Island have those. Not only do we get the bits with his dead wife and the missing woman, but also the many repeated scenes dealing the horrors of WWII. I get it that those scenes are intended to illustrate Teddys mental condition, but a little goes a long ways. Theres a thing called subtly. Use it. And the by the way, if nearly everything that occurred on the island is a figment of Teddys disillusioned mind, then what the f*ck did I watch? A dream? If I want that I'll pop in Dream a Little Dream (joke).

Of course, my biggest bitch comes from the whole plot being utterly ludicrous. I'm supposed to believe that the people in charge of an entire insane asylum convince everyone to play along with an ex-US Marshall and pretend that hes investigating a crime. Really? Youre going to get a doc to play along as his partner, train patients and staff to deliver lines, and oh, you planned all of this during hurricane season? Im all for suspending disbelief, but damn, man, thats just too much. At the same time, Shutter Island is so filled with McGuffins that by the time the picture ends, I didn't care. And why would I with all the rehashed ideas in here. Double wake-up dream sequences, dead people who open their eyes. freaky ass ladies who whisper shhhhh, and patients telling people to run. Really? I expect that in standard issue horror. Not from a master filmmaker.

I loved the idea of Scorsese and Leo making a horror movie in an insane asylum. Great, perfect, but do something more with it than provide a trick ending. If the ending is supposed to draw debate (where Teddy is now Laeddis and hes either still insane or cured when he elects for the lobotomy when he says, Which would be worse: to live as a monster, or to die as a good man?) who cares. Perhaps if the movie had truly been about discovering the horrors of the island it might be been something more. Felt more authentic. But the movie is a trick. Leave plots like that for dudes like M. Night to ruin.

Disagree? Buy the DVD and discover for yourself.

GET THE SHUTTER ISLAND BLU-RAY HERE

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3:42AM on 10/28/2010

*Spoiler Ahead*

Come on...a movie is bad when you can just watch the trailer and figure out the twist. The first time I saw the trailer I told myself 'he's patient 67 and he's crazy.' That's the sign of a terrible film. It's like watching the Scream trailer before the movie comes out and they show a scene of Matthew Lillard taking off the mask saying 'surprise! I'm the killer.'
Come on...a movie is bad when you can just watch the trailer and figure out the twist. The first time I saw the trailer I told myself 'he's patient 67 and he's crazy.' That's the sign of a terrible film. It's like watching the Scream trailer before the movie comes out and they show a scene of Matthew Lillard taking off the mask saying 'surprise! I'm the killer.'
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7:52AM on 09/22/2010
I think you need to watch it again, sir. Even though I've only seen it once it left me totally satisfied. You were on point with the costume design, performances, music, etc but Shutter is about the WHAT and not the HOW. Also, it never dumb-ed itself down for the audience. It took us on a crazed journey and was relentless in its pursuit of the *truth.* Shutter is possibly one of the best mysteries to come out in a long time.
I think you need to watch it again, sir. Even though I've only seen it once it left me totally satisfied. You were on point with the costume design, performances, music, etc but Shutter is about the WHAT and not the HOW. Also, it never dumb-ed itself down for the audience. It took us on a crazed journey and was relentless in its pursuit of the *truth.* Shutter is possibly one of the best mysteries to come out in a long time.
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3:12PM on 07/26/2010

WROONNNGGG

You are just wrong, plus how are people saying they figured out the ending when there was no clear ending, sure everyone there said he was insane but maybe he wasn't, you can't figure out an ending that isn't clear in the first place.
You are just wrong, plus how are people saying they figured out the ending when there was no clear ending, sure everyone there said he was insane but maybe he wasn't, you can't figure out an ending that isn't clear in the first place.
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6:01PM on 07/25/2010

totally agree.

double post, sorry guys/gals.
double post, sorry guys/gals.
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5:58PM on 07/25/2010

totally agree.

Couldn't agree more. I went in psyched to see this film, could not fucking wait. Then I saw it, and the later it got into the film the more and more disappointed I became. Ending was a total cop-out, and has been done so many times that I thought Scorsese would have done something much more original.
I know I wanted there to be a grand conspiracy, rather than one of those "it was all a dream" type scenarios where basically the entire movie amounts to shit (while visually appealing, no real
Couldn't agree more. I went in psyched to see this film, could not fucking wait. Then I saw it, and the later it got into the film the more and more disappointed I became. Ending was a total cop-out, and has been done so many times that I thought Scorsese would have done something much more original.
I know I wanted there to be a grand conspiracy, rather than one of those "it was all a dream" type scenarios where basically the entire movie amounts to shit (while visually appealing, no real substance...).
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4:19PM on 07/25/2010
Whooaaa. Man i thought this movie was great from the story, to the visuals, to the acting. Normally i agree with what you say but this is a BIG disagree.
Whooaaa. Man i thought this movie was great from the story, to the visuals, to the acting. Normally i agree with what you say but this is a BIG disagree.
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12:36PM on 07/25/2010

The book was better

I can't believe some of the comments I'm seeing here. The book was incredible, but the adaptation fell depressingly short. Visually stunning, but too stiff.
I can't believe some of the comments I'm seeing here. The book was incredible, but the adaptation fell depressingly short. Visually stunning, but too stiff.
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10:32PM on 07/24/2010

Say Whaaaaaaaat!?

You have got to be fucking kidding me right? This is the best film the Scorsese/DiCaprio team have created by a long shot. It's Scorsese's most visually impressive film since... I can't even remember, that's how long it's been. It's also Leo's best performance ever...by far. Shutter Island is the best thing they've done in the last decade.
You have got to be fucking kidding me right? This is the best film the Scorsese/DiCaprio team have created by a long shot. It's Scorsese's most visually impressive film since... I can't even remember, that's how long it's been. It's also Leo's best performance ever...by far. Shutter Island is the best thing they've done in the last decade.
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8:02PM on 07/24/2010
Way off. I loved it. Can't wait to see it a 2nd time. Sure it is a bit predictable but why watch a mystery type film if you are just gonna try to figure it out instead of getting taken for a ride by the film. People that try to figure the end out bug the shit out of me.
Way off. I loved it. Can't wait to see it a 2nd time. Sure it is a bit predictable but why watch a mystery type film if you are just gonna try to figure it out instead of getting taken for a ride by the film. People that try to figure the end out bug the shit out of me.
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6:41PM on 07/24/2010
I thouroughly enjoyed it despite it being a bit predictable. It was just a superbly made movie with a mediocre plot.
I thouroughly enjoyed it despite it being a bit predictable. It was just a superbly made movie with a mediocre plot.
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2:24PM on 07/24/2010
I agree with smok3h. Pretty much anyone I talk to says they figured out the ending just by watching the trailer. Really? I don't think it gave that much away in the trailer alone. If anything, the trailer leads the viewer to think its more along the lines of The Wicker Man. The Marshals being called to an island to search for a missing girl? Then it seems like everyone is conspiring against them? Sound familiar?
I agree with smok3h. Pretty much anyone I talk to says they figured out the ending just by watching the trailer. Really? I don't think it gave that much away in the trailer alone. If anything, the trailer leads the viewer to think its more along the lines of The Wicker Man. The Marshals being called to an island to search for a missing girl? Then it seems like everyone is conspiring against them? Sound familiar?
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11:24PM on 07/23/2010

You're so...

Wrong.
Wrong.
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10:04PM on 07/23/2010

I have to agree...

...with Shades501 here. The movie was far superior to the book.
...with Shades501 here. The movie was far superior to the book.
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7:16PM on 07/23/2010
double post, sorry
double post, sorry
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+8
6:38PM on 07/23/2010
Spoilers here:

I'm sick of hearing people say they figured out the ending. Maybe you figured out Leo's character was insane... but that's not figuring out the ending! I seriously doubt anyone had the foresight to be able to figure out that the whole thing was an elaborate set-up to try and make Leo sane. That's the ending. If you figured that out congratulations. If you just figured out that Leo was insane, you didn't figure out the ending, so stop saying you did! With that out of the
Spoilers here:

I'm sick of hearing people say they figured out the ending. Maybe you figured out Leo's character was insane... but that's not figuring out the ending! I seriously doubt anyone had the foresight to be able to figure out that the whole thing was an elaborate set-up to try and make Leo sane. That's the ending. If you figured that out congratulations. If you just figured out that Leo was insane, you didn't figure out the ending, so stop saying you did! With that out of the way, I really enjoyed the movie.
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6:01PM on 07/23/2010

Read the book!

I can already hear the grumbling when I say "read the book." However, in this case you are going to realize that the movie was not so much a flawed product as was the source material. The movie itself did an amazing job adapting the book, but when reading it - I had the same thoughts that you had regarding this movie. I think that Dicaprio/ Scorcese did the work justice in that respect.

Suggesting that they let the audience down - a bit of a stretch. Although you could argue they could have
I can already hear the grumbling when I say "read the book." However, in this case you are going to realize that the movie was not so much a flawed product as was the source material. The movie itself did an amazing job adapting the book, but when reading it - I had the same thoughts that you had regarding this movie. I think that Dicaprio/ Scorcese did the work justice in that respect.

Suggesting that they let the audience down - a bit of a stretch. Although you could argue they could have gone the "Fight Club" route and improved on the original...
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5:01PM on 07/23/2010

Much more depth after 2nd viewing

I wasnt too crazy about this film when I first viewed it at the movies but after watching it again on dvd it seemed like a whole new movie and that made it that much more awesome. Plus the making-of feature with scorcese, dicaprio and rest of the crew made it EVEN MORE awesome.
I wasnt too crazy about this film when I first viewed it at the movies but after watching it again on dvd it seemed like a whole new movie and that made it that much more awesome. Plus the making-of feature with scorcese, dicaprio and rest of the crew made it EVEN MORE awesome.
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3:40PM on 07/23/2010
Completely disagree. This is another masterful piece of work from Scorsese. Everything in this film is done on purpose. The dreamlike atmopshere is 100% planned and its filled with so many little visual quirks you spot a new one with each watch (3 for me). And Dicaprio's acting is brilliant. Especially in the final flashback scene which is one of the most heartbreaking scenes in recent years.
Completely disagree. This is another masterful piece of work from Scorsese. Everything in this film is done on purpose. The dreamlike atmopshere is 100% planned and its filled with so many little visual quirks you spot a new one with each watch (3 for me). And Dicaprio's acting is brilliant. Especially in the final flashback scene which is one of the most heartbreaking scenes in recent years.
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2:52PM on 07/23/2010
Gonna have to disagree on this one.
I loved Shutter Island =]
Gonna have to disagree on this one.
I loved Shutter Island =]
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12:27PM on 07/23/2010

Ahem...Lehane?

While I agree with the idea of this column, I'm pretty stumped as to the language and inferences connecting Scorsese to the actual story. Sure, he's got the end approval of every facet of pre and post, but there's absolutely no mention of Dennis Lehane and the fact that this film is a pristine adaptation. It really is. However, the problems lie far before this film was ever made. It was the CHOICE to adapt this great, disturbing book into a film that was mistake #1, and thinking that it
While I agree with the idea of this column, I'm pretty stumped as to the language and inferences connecting Scorsese to the actual story. Sure, he's got the end approval of every facet of pre and post, but there's absolutely no mention of Dennis Lehane and the fact that this film is a pristine adaptation. It really is. However, the problems lie far before this film was ever made. It was the CHOICE to adapt this great, disturbing book into a film that was mistake #1, and thinking that it could be translated into an effective film was mistake #2.

SPOILERS, but anyone reading has seen it, so...OK. Straight-up, the character of Teddy Daniels and the story itself could never be adapted into a good, satisfying horror/mystery film if left unchanged. Simple as that. The book was written as such that the reader could follow along and solve the mystery alongside Teddy, while increasing doubt arose as to the main character's sanity as the story spiraled into abject paranoia. I predicted the end as a reader (not that tough), but I enjoyed the ride because I was a part of it. There's a certain pull to the text and it's much easier to empathize with Teddy as a character, making the ending somewhat tolerable. With films, it's a much more automatic execution. No matter what you do as a viewer, the film goes on in front of you and there's much less room for interpretation when the images are decided for you. That's just the nature of the beast.

A story like Shutter Island was doomed from the start because of its story, but again, I wouldn't throw it all on Scorsese. One has to acknowledge the existence of the source material, the popularity of the book and the author, and the successful film adaptations from Lehane's books (Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone). Why wouldn't someone try to make Shutter Island? Mistake #3 came when Scorsese thought HE was the man to make an effective film out of the story. It was a brazen misstep to keep the story unaltered. No matter how powerful the performances ended up being (Max von Sydow and Ben Kingsley, I'm thinking), no casting could distract from a hollow script. Throw in disturbing imagery and nifty camera tricks and you may have a good-LOOKING film. This is all ignoring story, though. (Side note, I got more Kubrick vibes than anything as far as atmosphere, at least initially.)

Unless drastically changed, the book immediately lends itself to a cheap, empty script. As you mention, it never establishes the ordinary world. We're immediately thrust into this weird journey and there's so much focus on the problem, we don't really get to know who's trying to solve it. Who can we trust? What's real? What's not? And of course, in the end, we kick ourselves for even the slightest bend towards believing Teddy. We knew the truth all along. You're absolutely right in saying that the film is a string of unsettling dream sequences that slogs along amid bloated, predictable mystery. And it is a true disappointment coming from Scorsese, sure, but the fact that the film is in his disciplined hands doesn't automatically make the story any more easily translated OR worth telling in the first place.
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8:23AM on 07/23/2010
I really enjoyed Shutter Island however you could work out the BIG TWIST from the trailers. Considering it was made my an expert director such as Scorsese I dunno, you would expect more, I was really hoping to be blown away by it instead I thought Yeah that was good, now what did I just watch again?
I really enjoyed Shutter Island however you could work out the BIG TWIST from the trailers. Considering it was made my an expert director such as Scorsese I dunno, you would expect more, I was really hoping to be blown away by it instead I thought Yeah that was good, now what did I just watch again?
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8:21AM on 07/23/2010

Ummmmm......

No.
No.
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2:05AM on 07/23/2010
It's like a Call of Cthulhu LARP but with a budget.
It's like a Call of Cthulhu LARP but with a budget.
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1:58AM on 07/23/2010
I came away thinking, "This is an unimpressive plotline done extremely well." I enjoyed the hell out of it, but that doesn't mean that I didn't expect better from Scorsese. It's not that the movie is bad, IMO, it's that I expect more from the folks who made it. If this were a first time project from some new director, I'd be really impressed. But since it's from one of the best directors in film-making, I left somewhat disappointed.
I came away thinking, "This is an unimpressive plotline done extremely well." I enjoyed the hell out of it, but that doesn't mean that I didn't expect better from Scorsese. It's not that the movie is bad, IMO, it's that I expect more from the folks who made it. If this were a first time project from some new director, I'd be really impressed. But since it's from one of the best directors in film-making, I left somewhat disappointed.
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1:17AM on 07/23/2010
Totally agree man, especially since I too got irritated by all those flashbacks, dream sequences, flashsideways and we end up with a stupid it was all in his head which many of us saw coming from a mile away.
Totally agree man, especially since I too got irritated by all those flashbacks, dream sequences, flashsideways and we end up with a stupid it was all in his head which many of us saw coming from a mile away.
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12:23AM on 07/23/2010

Agreed

We have the exact same opinion on this film. I thought it was good but I wouldn't sit through it a second time. I called the ending when I saw the trailer and I hated the ending. IDK. I just was very underwhelmed by the entire flick.
We have the exact same opinion on this film. I thought it was good but I wouldn't sit through it a second time. I called the ending when I saw the trailer and I hated the ending. IDK. I just was very underwhelmed by the entire flick.
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