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"When you see a monster, you must stop it",
This review is from: Shutter Island [DVD] (2010) (DVD)
As the fog clears we catch sight of a boat moving towards an island shrouded in mystery. This could be a scene from King Kong or any number of stories that sends it's heros into the heart of darkness and back, often without the "back" part. Here the boat carries two federal marshals played by Leonardo Di Caprio and Mark Ruffalo. They have been sent to investigate the disseaperence of a dangerous mental patient in Martin Scorsesse's feature film follow up to his oscar winning crime drama "The Departed" Unlike that film "Shutter Island" apperas far more straighfoward, even generic. The marshals arrive, encounter difficulty from an oddly uncooperative staff, a hurricane hits leaving them stranded on an island with "only the most dangerous, damaged patients, ones no other hospital will manage" Cue two hours of deranged maniacs jumping out from shadowy corners, right? Wrong.
Based on a very good 2003 thriller novel written by Dennis Leehane(who's other works were the basis for the films "Mystic River" and "Gone Baby Gone")"Shutter Island" is a nightmarish exploration of the mind laced with themes of guilt and paranoia. We see this world through the eyes of Edward "Teddy" Daniels, a man who even prior to his visit to Aschlecliff is carrying considerable baggage. Set in the 1950s we learn through flashbacks that Teddy was a soilder involved in the liberation of Dachau during the second world war. Needless to say this left a lasting impression on Teddy and when you see them in cinemas or on dvd you won't forget them either. These scenes are for my money the most frank, disturbing sequences this excellent thriller has to offer. From the man who almost directed "Schindlers List" Scorseeses recreation of the camps are deeply unsettling, and unflinching in his approach to showing what human beings are capable of doing to one another. These scenes are also essential to our understanding of Teddy. Leonardo Di Caprio has done a lot of terrific work in interesting roles but he strikes notes as Teddy that showcase an extraordinary talent. Men like Teddy, these portrayls, appear to be his niche. men driven close to or past their pschological or emotional breaking point(note his soilder in "Blood Diamond", his undercover cooper in "The Departed", Howard Hughes in "The Aviator" or another man behind enemy lines in "Body Of Lies"). His performance here is remarkable running through Teddys mental detoriation and scenes of severe trauma, particularly as the film draws to it's inevitably grim finale.
As for the island itself the setting is wonderfully gothic and atmosheric, as we enter Aschlecliff the music(assmbled from other film, deliberately none of it is original) is almost overbearingly foreboading and every point the marshals cross to enter the facility-departing the ferry, handing over their guns, walking past the massive gates that have that "movie" clank as they lock them in-is marked as a point of no return.To make the enviroment even more inhospiatble the administrative staff present are obliquley unco-operative: Sir Ben Kingsley is excellent as the morally ambigious, adisarmingly friendly chief doctor. The ever relaible Jonh Carrol Lynch showed in "Gothika" and "Zodiac" that his prescence alone can be suitably unnerving, Ted Levine (remember the killer Buffalo Bill from "The Silence of the Lambs")has a brief but memorablely creepy supporting role as the facilitys warden and legendary actor Max Von Scydow steas every scene he's in as a veteran doctor behind the scenes.The rest of the cast in general fares quite well: Mark Ruffalo is a very fine actor but he has little to do here but stand around and take notes, playing the straight detective to Di Caprios nerve wrecked Teddy. Chuck Aule(Ruffalo) is not flesed out and he becomes alomost superflous next to Di Caprios tour de force performance. Oscar nominated "Little Children" and "Watchmen" actor Jackie Earl haley has a power house scene as an inmate, Patricia Clakson and british actress Emily Mortimer are memorable in small roles and Michelle Williams is eerie as Teddys late wife seen in a mixture of flashbacks and startling hallucinations.
Overall Scorseeses unforgetable visulas, moody cinematography and above all else Di Caprios magnificent work ellivate a stylish thriller into a significant film. I implore you to find it, see it and discuss it for yourself.