Israel Valencia’s review published on Letterboxd:
Shutter Island Review
"Which would be worse - to live as a monster? Or to die as a good man?" - Teddy Daniels
A mesmerizing thriller that leaves you visible shaken and questioning everything you just saw. As the film constantly borderlines reality and hallucinations which creates an unparalleled perspective to a film that leaves you mysteriously disturbed...... or disturbed mysteriously. This is due to the fact that we have an amazing subtle direction and an amazing performance which all leads to an extraordinary twist.
Martin Scorsese is usually the man who injects his film with doses of adrenaline and energy but here he is completely stripped of that. He utilizes dead colors and eerie music to make sure the scenes and events leave an aura of mystery that will take us further down the road. But it's because of this aura of mystery that we have an inner desire to keep on watching. As the mystery slowly starts to unveil itself we slowly start to get more and more interested in it.
Shutter Island is the story about two U.S Marshals named Chuck and Teddy whom arrive at Shutter Island in search of a missing patient but the mystery becomes much darker and puzzling as a storm keeps the two detectives there.
The film is constantly shrouded in complete mystery as every action and every sentence of dialogue is filled with a strange aura of deceitfulness that comes with the island. Then there's the constant sound of mystery lurking behind those falsified smiles and brilliant therapists. But it's the doctors that seem the most secretly wicked, as they state they are here to help the patients out. But "there's daggers in men's smiles" and it's clearly visible here as we get aspects of both cruelty and communism/fascism in these doctors viewpoints.
Leonardo DiCaprio brings a sense of paranoia that rivals the one he brought in The Departed. In one scene a doctor goes through a list of DiCaprio's character problems mainly anger issues. That's when you realize that DiCaprio is never calm throughout the film even in the opening shot in the bathroom. We constantly see him physically or mentally sick as the paranoia increases it accumulates to a suspense bending ending that leaves you completely floored. As DiCaprio drives his character and the film off the screen and directly into to the correct path for a thriller film.
Mark Ruffalo plays off well from DiCaprio's dark moody paranoia with some cheeky intellectual insights. But overall, it's in the moments that he works with DiCaprio that it creates good chemistry. Besides Ruffalo just having to stand there reminding us Teddy came with someone. Creating a nice mystery of this new partner and is he reliable or not; or if anyone Teddy meets is reliable and honest. Plus Ben Kingsley works as the doctor as he borderlines between honest to dishonest and there's times where you can't tell the differences.
Then there's Michelle Williams as Teddy's ex-wife as she plays the mysterious ghost of his ex-wife with such a creepy distinction that matches her seducing ways. Finally Max Von Sydow works perfectly as the head therapist as he looks and acts very wise and philosophical able to tell the truth in a way that will hurt you profoundly.
The setting is set up brilliantly as to provide the viewer with enough depth and understanding that this place is dark and full of no light. The scene where Teddy just arrives and the creepy lady tells him to stay quiet shows that in the times of light there is the truth. Plus the film constantly is in a storm that roars on which is symbolic of what is going on in Teddy's life and mind. As the web of deceit and lies continues to be built and continues to increase farther along the story.
The script is a bit flimsy but the direction is solid enough to keep the suspense and mystery of this film alive. Also the cinematography is perfect as the mood is set when we dim the lights and see the opening shot of a deteriorating DiCaprio. Plus the cinematographer goes for those dark moments and awkward shots that leave the viewers a bit shaken. This is all mixed in with an exceptional score that subtly sets the tone for the moments in where DiCaprio slowly starts to realize the truth.
The plot twist at the end is subtle hinted throughout the story. But the solid direction and exceptional performances, led by Leonardo DiCaprio, make the film work. The film balances between what's real and what's not real, who to trust and who can't you trust, also the final question which is quoted above leaves the viewers wondering and asking themselves the same question. This leaves an enduring thought in the viewers mind that help them realize was everything we saw real or fake?
Grade: B+ , 3 1/2 stars