Sunday, 13 June 2010

Shutter Island (Martin Scorsese, 2010)

"We gotta get off this rock, Chuck."

This latest film from the generally reliable Martin Scorcese sees him moving into psychological thriller territory with his current favoured leading man, Leonardo DiCaprio. Federal Marshall Teddy Daniels visits Shutter Island, an asylum which has managed to lose a patient, although she can't have gotten far given that it's an island and is crawling with pissed off guards. As his investigation develops Daniels (DiCaprio) comes into conflict with Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley), his own troubled mind and a hurricane force storm as he battles to uncover the truth about the spooky lighthouse and Ward C.

Regular listeners to The Simon & Jo Film Show will be very aware how much Simon enjoyed Shutter Island. Indeed it currently stands as his top film of 2010 which you might think would be reason enough to watch it. If I enjoy it then that's a fun cinema experience which is good news. If not then I can have an argument with Simon which is also good news. Given discussions we'd had I must confess to being mildly on edge as the lights went down, feeling like every moment could have some kind of vital significance or double meaning. Fortunately Scorcese added to the tension by showing off his range of technical skills, the music, the camerawork and the dialogue all pushed me further to the brink. I was excited, scared and intrigued as the complex set up was gradually revealed, there was a sinister atmosphere that made me sit further forward and take notice. Of every single thing.

Unfortunately the pressure on my wee brain occasionally became a little too much. Sometimes the conversations became a little overblown and drawn out, it was a tad draining to listen to every detail and then try to fit it into the overall puzzle, particularly when they got repetitive or bizarre. It's a rather difficult film to write about without giving away too much, suffice to say there are dreams and all is not quite what it seems. The performance of Ben Kingsley as the head doctor at the asylum perfectly typifies the sense of mystery. His marvellous face with the baldness, goatee and sheer angular Britishness make for the classic image of a villain, frustrating Daniels investigation at every turn. Yet he is clearly a practitioner of some skill with a desire to help his patients. The brutality of his stories and intelligent analysis make him a compelling character and add to the general sharp harshness.

I have to say overall I very much enjoyed the film. It mixed elements of horror with a thrilling sense of not knowing what was going to happen next. Scorcese used a dash of social commentary by exploring different aspects of fifties paranoia such as Communism and the Hydrogen bomb but was always ready to cut to violent images. DiCaprio was fine as a conduit through which the audience could experience Shutter Island, he did fear, anger and shock very well at all the appropriate moments. When all is said and done I didn't see how it was going to end but as the final revelations began playing out I was searching back over what had happened, not entirely sure what was real and who to trust until every last question was answered.

Certainly it is a film to be watched again, to check for the details that contribute or conflict with the ending. There were a couple of moments that didn't feel like they fitted into my understanding of what had happened but they were minimal and perhaps I'll get the chance to quiz Marty on those points. Overall I must offer hearty (albeit reluctant) thanks to Simon and commend Shutter Island as one of my favourite films of 2010. And so ended Monday 7th.

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  1. Good to see you writing some pieces Jo!

    I completely agree with you that this is one of the best films we've seen this year, and think it works better when the audience just tries to soak it in. After twenty minutes or so, I had the notion that things weren't what they appeared to be...but I forced myself to sit back and go along for the ride, rather than looking for double -meanings right off the get-go.

    If you dug it, I'd suggest peppering your week off with some listening. Go to the link below, and take a listen to the Creative Screenwriting Podcast with the film's screenwriter Laeta Kalogridis:

  2. Yeah, great post Jo - and yes, though the arguing is always a joy - its great to know you agree with me on this movie. Funnily enough, at the time of release reviews weren't incredible so something must be right if both you and I are big fans!

  3. This movie does leave the viewer as haunted as the characters themselves and absolutely blows us out of the water with the visuals.

  4. I like self-contained universes, SI looped around within itself perfectly. Every time I said to myself, "What the hell is this all about?" had an answer eventually. 'course, it was a sort of catch all ending.


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