Scorsese & Lehane, A Great Combination
MovieMike - wrote on 01/25/17
As the closing credits rolled for ‘Shutter Island’, I purposely stood back and carefully listened to the comments of the departing audience. I was curious if anyone was going to echo my own sentiments about the murky way the film wrapped up. I heard enough to feel that my own minor misgivings were at least somewhat justified. I don’t want to say that this film isn’t good – because it really is. But it could have been perfect, if only for just a bit of tweaking.
‘Shutter Island’ is taken almost verbatim from a book written by Dennis Lehane (‘Mystic River’ and ‘Gone, Baby Gone’) and brought to the screen completely intact by Hollywood legend, Martin Scorsese. Typically we expect movie versions of books to be mutations (at a minimum) or total miscarriages of the original stories. Mr. Scorsese chooses not to fool with the formula here – and for once I wished he had, if only a little.
The problem is that a good part of the story has to do with a struggle between reality and delusion; and as in the book, the story glides seamlessly between the two. While these transitions are handled quite effectively, they become too blurred. As a result, the audience looses track of their own reference point to where the edge of sanity really is. While in a metaphorical sense, this could be seen as a major achievement – but the ending would have carried a bigger entertainment punch if only viewers could have been sure of just one or two things.
Leonardo DiCaprio plays Federal Marshal, Teddy Daniels, and within the first few minutes of the film we get a sense of the heavy baggage he carrying around with him. I’m holding out hope that when Oscar season rolls around next year, his performance here will still resonate with the judges of the Academy Awards. Mark Ruffalo is equally good as his new partner; actually underplaying his part to great effect. Ben Kingsley is along as lead psychiatrist of the facility, Dr. John Cawley. His character is obviously withholding key information for reasons that won’t get revealed until later. Max von Sydow appears as Cawley’s associate, Dr. Naehring. His German heritage is a sensitive subject as this story takes place in the early 50’s. We learn that Daniels was one of the liberators of the concentration camp at Dachau and is greatly affected by his experience there.
The move does drag a bit here and there because there is quite a lot of dialog, but it all serves to pave the way to the final scene. More than a couple people I spoke with who hadn’t seen the film were under the impression that ‘Shutter Island’ is a type of horror film. While re-examining the previews, I can almost understand this; but it is really a psycho-thriller that should keep you in its grip right up to the last frame – even if you end up a bit puzzled when you get there.