Anthony Le’s review published on Letterboxd:
"You know, this place makes me wonder ... which would be worse - to live as a monster, or to die as a good man?"
Suspense is something that's incredibly difficult to create. You have to create the right atmosphere, which consequently needs the right music, cinematography and lighting. One of the greatest directors of all time, Alfred Hitchcock, understood this better than anyone - there's whole University courses devoted to studying the techniques of Hitchcock. The man was a genius, evoking terror and suspense through the use of everything from dialogue to shadows. Then, years later, another great director, Stanley Kubrick, tried his hand at suspense with The Shining. Ultimately, the result of his experimentation with the thriller/horror genre was one of the most well-respected films of its genre. Now, years after that, one of this generations finest talents, Martin Scorsese, attempts to follow in their footsteps. Though Scorsese's film wasn't praised by critics, the end product was ultimately still incredible.
At the centre of any great film, thriller or not, is a great actor. Jack Nicholson in The Shining, Jake Gyllenhaal in End of Watch - it's apparent that great films are paired with great performances. And likewise, our star, Leonardo DiCaprio, is great in Shutter Island. His performance, paired with Mark Ruffalo's performance, are the best things about this film. They convince us of their characters - only to alter them drastically by the end of the film. This is a detective story, mixed into a psychological thriller, mixed in with a ghost story. Scorsese understands the art of filmmaking, and that's how he manages to blend all these elements so well. There's not a single moment in the film where the audience isn't entertained - it's pulse pounding action after pulse pounding action.
Like the filmmakers he shares his company with, Scorsese goes above the visual medium alone to achieve the suspense he wants. His soundtrack for Shutter Island is directly evocative of the result he's attempting to achieve. It's eerie, dark and brooding - perfect to match the atmosphere of the film. Along with this, he uses lighting to his advantage. This film is covered in an air of disgust and dirtiness - it gives the audience a feeling that something is wrong. And, therefore, Scorsese is able to achieve the suspense he needs.
Shutter Island may not reach the lengths that The Shining did for the advancement of cinema, but it's an incredibly entertaining film that doesn't cease to thrill until the film's closing moments. And even in those, Scorsese pushes the film further so that Shutter Island sticks in your mind. And though the filmmaking techniques are present in this film, what you remember from this experience are the performances, the twist and turns, and the captivating story.