A Shuttering Sight To See

Shutter Island is a haunting psychological thriller from director Martin Scorsese. The film boasts a talented cast, daunting cinematography, and a mind-piercing story that will keep audiences intrigued until the very last shot.

The story, based on a novel by Dennis Lehane, is set in 1954 and tells the story of U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) and his brand new partner Chuck Aule (played by Mark Ruffalo) who are called to investigate the escape of a patient from a hospital for the criminally insane. The hospital is located on a land mass called Shutter Island.

Daniels and Aule receive little compliance from the nursing staff as well as the shady psychiatrist Dr. Cawley (played by Ben Kingsley). Aule learns that Daniels might have ulterior motives for coming to Shutter Island. Meanwhile, Teddy begins to hallucinate and must solve the case and get off the island before he loses his grasp of reality.

The actors are casted perfectly for their characters. DiCaprio is terrific as the protagonist, showing great range throughout his transformation as he slowly goes insane throughout the film. Kingsley almost overshadows DiCaprio with his chilling portrayal as the prison’s psychiatrist with controversial ideas concerning treatment of patients. Jackie Earle Haley has a short, but memorable role as an atrocious looking inmate who surprisingly wields good advice.

The film’s acting is not the only visual accomplishment on the screen. Shutter Island is comprised of striking imagery that creates a gateway for the audience to enter Daniels’ conscience. Flashbacks of his involvement in World War II are interspersed in the film, providing insight into the way his mind works. Another arresting image is the visualization of the crime committed by the missing inmate, which appears to Daniels as he struggles to keep his sanity.

Scorsese is known for expertly crafting a film, which is evident in Shutter Island. The movie has a deliberate pace, which moderately becomes more frantic as if synchronous with the protagonist’s mind. The island serves as the appropriate location for the film, and almost acts as a character itself, by holding all the inmates and anyone else who comes to the island captive.

Unfortunately, the film’s ending will leave many viewers divided. The final act does not seem to live up to rest of the film, but the conclusion is not farfetched enough to ruin the movie. The musical score is annoyingly distracting throughout the entire film and should have been toned down to match the ominous imagery of the island. Another problem lies in the imagery in the World War II flashbacks in that it is very graphic and may be offensive to some.

Shutter Island begins as a crime drama but soon unravels into a psychological thriller that is entertaining and interesting enough to be seen on the big screen. If it were not for some tiny missteps, this could have been among Scorsese’s best films. However, it is still significantly better than most.