Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Shutter Island- A Review

Shutter Island does just what any dark detective thriller should.  It follows a man on his quest for answers.  The brilliance of Scorsese's film is that the sought after answers aren't what the audience is initially lead to believe they are.  That said, the film's twist is dealt with shrewdly, dutifully and without any of the "We gotcha!" vanity that is so common in modern thrillers.

The plot is fairly simple.  Leonardo DiCaprio plays a United States Marshal, Teddy Daniels, who, along with his partner Chuck Aule, has been called in to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a patient from a island hospital for the criminally insane.  When the patient returns as incomprehensibly as she vanished, the narrative shifts, sending Daniels hunting for a conspiracy and allowing the audience a better look at Leonardo DiCaprio's character.

The hospital is the perfect backdrop.  It is truly isolated, and the closed in editing leaves the viewers feeling as trapped as the characters are.  There are few long shots and even fewer establishing shots.  The landscaped campus serves as a pressure cooker for Daniels' problematic relationship with the world around him, his traumatic past and ultimately his identity.  Scorsese skillfully pushes the film through its evolution from detective thriller to psychological horror with beautifully sharp transitions and a brilliant usage of the hierarchy of knowledge and foreshadow.   The film is peppered with Daniels' strange dreams, World War II flashbacks, and eventually waking nightmares which fully align the audience with the protagonist and give us a window through which we can better understand the protagonist's spiral into darkness and disjointed reality.

Shutter Island is worth seeing twice.  First, see the film to experience the narrative as it turns and changes, then to fully appreciate Scorsese's subtle and layered take on the unreliable narrator.  Here, the filmmaking is as important as the film.  The film itself is a commentary on trauma and guilt and their destabilizing effect on a person's identity.  As the tagline reads, "Someone is missing."  But, exactly who is the real question.

1 comment:

  1. Good job. The passenger ( who was a flight attendant flying standby) was whatching it on her computer
    she was a good seatmate, the middle was empty, iwas in the emergency exit seat, lots of leg room