Shutter Island (2010)

I wonder, is it better to live like a monster, or die a good man?

— Teddy Daniels

Martin Scorsese’s latest movie Shutter Island, which stands as the 197th movie on the Top 250 of All-Time on IMDb, has been getting a bad rap since its studio, Paramount decide to move the release date of the movie from October 2009 to February 2010, because it couldn’t afford the Oscar campaign for the picture. I call bullshit on that. This could mean certain death for a film not being remember a whole year from now. This is the fourth collaboration of Scorsese and lead actor Leonardo DiCaprio. Even though the movie is highly predictable, I still enjoyed the majority of the ride.

Based on the novel by Dennis Lehane, former WWII soldier/U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels (DiCaprio) and his new partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) travel by boat to Shutter Island, which is a home of Ashcliffe, the prison for the criminally insane. They are met by Deputy Marshal McPherson (John Carroll Lynch) who them that they have to surrender their firearms. They take a tour of the complex which has separate wards for men, women prisoners and an old Civil War era, Building C that houses the most dangerous criminals.

The team meets the head psychiatrist of the institution; Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley) to investigate the disappearance of a patient that mysteriously escaped from her cell, who killed her kids, Rachel Solando. She is loose somewhere on the island, because there is no way for her to escape the island without drowning.

Searching through her cell, Teddy fines a piece of paper in her room that has “The law of 4. Who is 67?” scribbled on it. In order to try to find out the circumstances surrounding the escapee, Teddy and Chuck want to interview the staff. Dr. Cawley and Dr. Naehring (Max von Sydow) doesn’t want the investigators to rummage through the staffs personal files. Teddy wants to leave immediately.

The more time that Teddy spends on the island he has flashbacks of an incident when he was a soldier in WWII liberating a Dachau concentration camp or his life with her wife, Dolores (Michelle Williams) that was killed years earlier.

A massive hurricane hits the island and the prisoners try to escape the island, Teddy comes to realization when Rachel is found that they are 66 patients on the island, but Rachel implies there is a 67th patient. Who is that patient?

I thought the performances were very good, especially DiCaprio, Jackie Earle Haley and Patricia Clarkson.

I thought that the score was unnecessary in the beginning segments of the film. I guess, Scorsese wanted to set the mood. It was ear deafening. The biggest problem of the movie is the twist. Watching the trailers lately, they talk about the twist ending. The twist you could predict thirty minutes into the movie. I wasn’t a surprise at all, but I was half right about it. There was another sharp turn that I didn’t see coming.

Judgment: This movie was mess with your mind until the very end.

Rating: ****

About Branden

Branden: I am just your average movie nut that reviews films. Gives his take on pop culture and Hollywood happenings. Dreams to have his own thriving website and make a living doing what he is passionate about.

Posted on February 27, 2010, in 2010, Action, Mystery, Psychological, Running Feature, Suspense, Thriller, Top 250 of All Time on IMDB and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 18 Comments.

  1. I’ve been taking issue with those who say that the whole thing was predictable. If you were only predicting half of where it was going, I’m thinking that it couldn’t have been any more predictable than any other film churned out by the Hollywood system. It was clear with how thick they laid on the intensity from the beginning of the film (I agree it might have been a little too much off the top) that things weren’t what they seemed, but that could have gone in any number of ways. <> They could have been making him think he was an inmate, he might have killed his whole family in a fire, he might have known Max Von Sydow’s character from Dacchau, Chuck could have been a hallucination… <> That’s just where I come out on things.

    Lemme ask you this… and this is a bit of a <>… at the end of the film when Teddy says something about “Living as a monster or dying as a hero” (which bears a striking similarity to The Dark Knight’s “Die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”) and then heading off to possibly try to escape again, but more likely to be lobotimzed – do you see Teddy as a monster? The guy killed his wife for drowning his three kids – that doesn’t seem monstrous to me. Sounds pretty human to me. What do you think?

    • Uh, those brackets are supposed to say SPOILERS… Doesn’t seem to have worked.

      • I know that you think exception over the “predictable” aspect, but it has been done before (Secret Window, Fight Club, Identity, etc). I knew that was going to happen. It was almost spoiled in the trailer.

        I didn’t get the connection Max von Sydow’s character. I missed that.

        I didn’t think that Teddy was a monster. He did monstrous act in the heat of the moment. He doesn’t want to deal with the ramifications of his actions. I think he wanted a piece of him to die when his family died.

  2. I think I’ll wait til this one comes out on DVD. Sounds like fun but somehow it doesn’t interest me enough to spend $12 on it… I always find it a bit strange when directors keep working with the same actors. Give someone else a chance!

    • Aww, that a shame that you don’t want to see it in the theater. I guess, when you see it at home, you could go back to find out the clues of the mystery.

  3. I had been thinking that Teddy’s experiences at the concentration camp could have included Max Von Sydow’s character in some way. Their little conversation in German, plus his memories of the place made me think that they might have some history beyond the institution.

    Good call on wanting a piece of him to die – I guess the film documents the struggle inside of him between what he has to let go and what his subconscious refuses to give up.

    • I wish I said this during my review of the film. It’s good to talk about it and mull it over. I would have never thought about the themes and the sequences that I missed the first time. I need to see it again to fully grasp it.

      • Yeah, that’s the best argument for reviewing DVDs instead of first run movies: You get plenty of time for some sober second thought and you can talk to other folks who’ve had a lot of time to mull it over too.

        I just think while there were some things (or even a lot of things) we saw coming in Shutter Island, there was a lot of stuff going on in the background (and in the foreground) that might have been missed. Things that until we saw the whole work in its entirety, and then we’d go “Oh, that totally makes sense!” I still wanna explore the meaning behind the glass of water sequence.

  4. People were saying that glass of water sequences demonstrated that Teddy’s delusion showed cracks. He couldn’t sustain his reality without a mistake of a woman not/drinking a glass of water.

    • Yeah, I’m thinking it means just a little bit more than that. I remember when I saw it, I looked to both sides at my buddies at the movie with me to see if they caught it, and then I said to myself “Well, I guess that means that ANYTHING can happen now.” I think though that the glass of water itself is significant – that maybe his brain frazzled a little bit on the glass of water in relation to his children having drowned in water. Water is a recurring motif in the film (as is fire) and when they start tying everything up, it becomes clearer why.

      • The symbolism with water in movies is about sorrow, being filled with guilt, loneliness. There was another scene with his wife holding a whiskey bottle that was in her hand and disappeared when she warns him about digging too much into the mystery.

        I thought the fire meant anger, like when Teddy sets Dr. Cawley’s car on fire with Dolores and the little girl standing. I think he felt resentment and hatred for his wife destroying his seemingly perfect family.

  5. mcarteratthemovies

    See, Branden? “Shutter Island” did not, in fact, *suck donkey balls*. Quite the opposite, actually … although I’m not sure I can stomach what that means literally!

    This is a terrific mindfuck of a movie with a terrific lead performance by DiCaprio, who’s aging like a fine wine. He keeps getting better. I love him when he works with Scorsese; they bring out the best in each other.

    Special kudos must be given to the score, which has to be the most ominous darn thing written in the past 10 years, or maybe longer. It puts a vise grip on your heart, then the rest of the movie has your mind.

    • You were right. I didn’t suck donkey balls as I thought. The Wolfman did. BIG TIME! (Oh, sucking donkey balls is not an appetizing thought.)

      The movie is a mindfuck. I am having a great discussion with Steve from “The Film Cynics” about the motivations of Teddy Daniels and Scorsese’s direction in this movie.

      I thought the score was great, but not at the beginning. It was bombastic and unnecessary. It could have more subdued when Teddy and Chuck arrived to the island, then become more loud and ominous as the mystery, which it eventually did.

  6. Just saw this last night and I enjoyed it tremendously. It does lack that little additional punch to make it a masterpiece but in all, very well crafted and acted movie.

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