Shutter Island: The Scorsese/DiCaprio Team Deliver An Original Thriller

23 02 2010

Like Steven Speilberg and Tom Hanks, Tim Burton and Johnny Depp, Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio are a director/actor team that critics and fans enjoy. With joint credits including The Departed and The Aviator, Scorsese and Leo seem to have a great working relationship, one that has garnered both big box office numbers and many awards. Shutter Island marks the fourth Scorsese/Leo team-up, one that has already become their most financially successful yet (taking in $40 million in its opening weekend). But critics have been divided – is Shutter Island Scorsese’s latest masterpiece? Here’s the breakdown:

At the behest of Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley), Teddy Daniels (DiCaprio) travels to the mysterious Shutter Island, an institute for the criminally insane. Once there, he starts investigating the disappearance of a female patient, Rachel Salando. With the help of his partner, Chuck (Mark Ruffalo), Teddy begins to uncover Shutter Island’s dark secrets.

The Monkey: The film’s script was exceptional. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a movie that wasn’t predictable, didn’t rely on cliches and didn’t have canned dialogue. Originality has become a lost art in Hollywood; Shutter Island was a breath of fresh air.

The actors carried this film artfully. DiCaprio has officially shed his “teen-star” status from his Titanic days and continues to prove himself as a serious actor, one that has a long and respected career ahead of him. Ben Kingsley was a delight; taking a break from his slew of straight-to-DVD flicks, Kingsley reminds audiences of his acting mettle. His portrayal of the mysterious Dr. Cawley is subdued, yet perfectly juxtaposed with DiCaprio’s forceful Teddy.

The film’s twists, while anticipated, are still surprising and creative. With snippets of information trickling in throughout the story, Shutter Island is not a mindless night out at the movies. While some viewers might find the complexities annoying, going to a movie that makes you think is something I’ve missed.

On a side note, the story weaves a World War II plot thread through the movie, a surprise, based on trailers and early plot synopses. The thread was eerie and, once again, original; gotta give Scorsese credit for having the balls to include such well-covered story material into a relatively unrelated thriller plot arc.

The Weasel: The film was much too long. The middle of the movie was filled with DiCaprio’s character traipsing across the island sufficiently bleary-eyed and furrow-browed. Much of this action, while trying to contribute to the overall building tension, added nothing to the film’s finale and could have easily been pared down.

While the ending was satisfying, there was so much tension built up throughout the movie that, comparatively, the ending seemed weak. Speaking of tension, Scorsese handled Shutter Island‘s tension with a heavy hand. The film’s opening sequence, complete with fog, creepy security guards and a ridiculously obnoxious soundtrack, set the tone for the kind of hit-you-over-the-head approach the movie espoused.

Definitely another great movie to add to the Scorsese/DiCaprio library. While not as safe and “filmic” as their past work, it was nice to see both director and actor step into a slightly different setting with similarly successful results. Shutter Island is certainly worth a second or third viewing.

3.5 Death Stars out of 5

What do you think? Was Shutter Island a successful Scorsese/DiCaprio pairing? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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One response

23 02 2010
Cal

I agree 100%. This was one of the best films, as far as developed characters and plot goes, I have seen in a very long time. I think Scorsese is keeping cinema alive.

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