A blog about movies and filmmaking.

A Mental Institution…For the Criminally Insane

In drama on February 24, 2010 at 4:16 pm

For whatever reason I’ve never read any of Dennis LeHane’s novels, despite loving (or in the case of Mystic River, liking a lot) the movies that are based off his work. SHUTTER ISLAND, the newest such adaptation starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Max von Sydow, Ted Levine, Elias Koteas, and the appearances of the lovely Michelle Williams, Emily Mortimer, and Patricia Clarkson; all make for an all-star cast with nary a single weak-spot. Oh and there’s the people behind the camera. First the writer, Laeta Kalogridis, who wrote PATHFINDER, NIGHT WATCH (the Russian Sci-fi movie), and ALEXANDER…Okay, not the greatest of credits; but to make up for it we then have Martin Scorsese.

And this movie gives us Scrosese at his highest in showing us just how much he loves movies. There are pastiches, homages, tips of the hat and every other kind of reference to movies of the near and far past. From his professed favorite of THE RED SHOES, to SCHINDLER’S LIST, VERTIGO and a number of other Hitchcock movies; and even to the original and his remake of CAPE FEAR. The story itself may not make SHUTTER ISLAND one of the best movies ever, or even of the year, but it’s certainly not a forgettable one. The story is a jumbled acid-trip of suspense, paranoia, and conspiracy, with an ending that might seem like it’s obvious but is definitely not what you expect.

DiCaprio plays Teddy Daniels, a Federal Marshall who is being sent to Shutter Island with his new partner, Chuck (Ruffalo), because of the miraculous/mysterious disappearance of a patient. One Rachel Solando, who vanished from her room, and is considered dangerous. Needless to say there are added layers to just about everyone’s story; whether it’s Teddy’s issues letting go to a trauma he had during WWII; or to the memories of his wife (Williams), and even whether it’s an accident or coincidence that Teddy has been given this particular assignment. The asylum is run by…well, I’m not really sure who is in charge. Kingsley’s Dr. Cauley has the most screen-time; but the Warden (Levine) seems like the most menacing – in his about total of three-minutes on-screen.We’re even given hints that the career-long villainous actor, von Sydow, might be the puppet-master.

Needless to say, I’m not going to give anything away here, except go see this masterpiece in pulp cinema that would have perfectly fit in between THE THIRD MAN, SILENCE OF THE LAMBS and ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST. Every performance is fantastic. Scorsese relishes in the tropes – one of my favorite moments is in the introduction of the island; as the 2nd Warden (played by John Carroll Lynch) familiarizes us with the locations the camera whip-pans over to that building. It’s hilarious fun.

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