johnlink ranks SHUTTER ISLAND (2010)

So here we are at the end of February, and I’m finally seeing my first film released in 2010. You would think that working at a movie theater would afford me more opportunities to watch movies. You would be wrong. But I digress. The following will contain HEAVY SPOILERS. It is impossible to talk about this film without spoiling some things. BE WARNED NOW, WATCH THE MOVIE BEFORE READING!

I watched SHUTTER ISLAND (2010) in the theater on 2.28.10. It was my first viewing of the film. TRAILER HERE.

I spent the first five minutes annoyed by this movie. I thought I figured it out right away. And here’s the crazy thing about it: I had. I had absolutely gotten it right! It did not matter. I think Scorsese purposely sets you up. He wants the audience to figure it out. The reason this is an exceptional film is that it focuses on the journey of the character (and you could say characters, except this film really focuses on one man), rather than fitting it’s hero into a plot. In the hands of a lesser director, this film would have been showy and weak. Under Scorcese’s eye, it is art.

Consider the first dream sequence with Michelle Williams as Leonardo DiCaprio’s wife. We see her burn, we see the water, we see the blood. It is done with such strangeness that we, because we heard his wife burned, justify the other pieces of the dream as the strangeness of a confused mind meshing his own reality with the reality of the case he is working on. There is genius in the fact that this is close to what his mind is actually doing.  We see the dream manifestation before we see the real manifestation. His mind is trying to break through in the form of his dreams.

I find the anti-Nazi sentiment in this film to be particularly interesting. There is a lot of talk about violence in this film, and DiCaprio’s Teddy has created a memory in which he slaughtered Nazis for killing Jews at the concentration camps. He says that this act was murderous rather than a wartime necessity. He has taken the guilt from what happened with his wife and placed it on a fictitious act which his mind can justify because he would have committed it on monsters. It still eats at him, but he can live with it because of how terrible they are. He now converts this violent hatred to all Germans, which is evident by his misdirected dealings with Max Von Sydow’s Dr. Naehring.

The scenes I most want to go back and see are the interaction with the warden, Ted Levine, and the scenes with the fake Rachel, Emily Mortimer. I also would like to see the scenes with the patients being first interviewed and then released. I’m trying to figure out a few details in my mind still. Were those being interviewed actually patients? Were they staff? I’d like to see this again, and soon, to answer some of these questions for myself.

I wonder if everyone picked up the meaning of the last line. I heard that some people thought the end was weak. Did they get the significance of what Teddy (or Andrew, at that point) said? Did they get that he was aware of what was happening? The film is interesting to discuss (as Liz and I did on our way home) as to its viewpoint on psychiatric medicine. The film presents that there are three ways for the science to go. Lobotomy, drugs, or true therapy in attempt to help. The film proves that the third way CAN work, however it is muddied by the patient himself then wanting to go back to the first two. This is the crux of the line “Which would be worse, to live as a monster or to die as a good man?” For me, the film never answers its own question, because the question is too malleable to answer.

The acting in this is superb. I’ve mentioned many above, but must also point out that Ben Kingsley is phenomenal (good to see him not doing junk). There are many great one scene cameos. The warden, as I mentioned above, as well as Jackie Earle Haley and Elias Koteas (who I thought was DeNiro in the trailer, and realized it was not while watching the film).

The script is among the best to be screened in years. It encourages repeat viewing, and doesn’t cheat at any point. Rather than try and hide things from the audience, it throws too much in its face. The fun of this film is not the ‘twist’ at the end, it is in trying to discover how deep the rabbit hole goes. We go on a journey from thinking we get it, to doubting ourselves and thinking maybe it is what Teddy thinks it is, and back. Incredibly well written. And Ben Kingsley’s Dr. Cawley may be one of the best non-villains ever put on film.

I hope, if you have read this far, that you have already seen this film. Please, feel free to start up a conversation below in the talkback. I’d love to hear what other people think of this one.


FILM: 10; MOVIE: 8; ACTING: 9; WRITING: 10; BONUS: 1 (What is this?)

The bonus point here is for the soundtrack (Hard to say musical score since none of the pieces are original). One of the most effectively haunting uses of movie music I’ve ever heard.



~ by johnlink00 on March 1, 2010.

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