19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
An intense, well-crafted psychological thriller,
This review is from: Shutter Island [DVD] (2010) (DVD)
I don't make a habit of watching Leonardo DiCaprio films, but the premise of Shutter Island intrigued me. It looked like a dark and moody thriller, and that's exactly what it turned out to be. Setting the story in the 1950s grants the film a strong film noir quality that works hand in hand with the gritty cinematography to produce an atmosphere that mirrors the psychological darkness hanging over the entire story. This is a place with more than a few similarities to Alcatraz, and much of the story takes place during hurricane-like conditions that only intensify the lonely desperation of a place completely cut off from the normal world.
DiCaprio plays Teddy Daniels, a U.S. marshal who goes to Boston Harbor's Shutter Island to investigate the disappearance of a patient from Ashecliffe Hospital. Rachel Solando is no ordinary patient, and Ashecliffe is no ordinary hospital. Shutter Island, you see, is home to the criminally insane, the kind of people that society and the system - but not Drs. Cawley (Ben Kingsley) and Naehring (Max Von Sydow) - have given up on. They are on the cutting edge of psychiatric medicine and are attempting to rehabilitate the likes of Rachel, who bought her ticket there by drowning her three kids in the lake behind her home. The case is not an easy one for Daniels. He's working with a brand new partner in Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo), the docs aren't all that generous in terms of sharing data on the patients and staff members, and it looks very much as if Rachel Solando simply disappeared into thin air. Daniels also harbors some psychological demons inside his own head - his disturbing memories from the liberation of Dachau and the death of his young wife. He also has an ulterior motive for being there, as he has reason to believe the man responsible for his wife's death is there on the island. Additionally, his research into Ashecliffe makes him suspect that the good doctors there are actually up to no good at all, conducting the kinds of research and tests that the Nazis pioneered during the Third Reich.
The plot takes a number of unsettling twists and turns, as Scorsese brilliantly manipulates the audience in a number of mesmerizing ways, constructing a psychological labyrinth of sudden dead ends and hidden chambers. Every time you think you have the story figured out, it twists away from you in a new direction. You're routinely left wondering what is real and what is imagined throughout the film's 138 minute runtime. It takes a great script, a great director, and a great actor to make a film like this work, and Shutter Island is blessed with all of the above. Leo's not one of my favorites, but I do concede the fact that he is a talented actor. Brilliantly conceived and executed, Shutter Island is a thinking man's suspense thriller that leaves certain aspects of the story open to interpretation even after the final truth is revealed. As such, it is one of those rare films that prove just as fascinating the second time through as it was the first.