Shutter Island

Shutter Island ★★★½

This is the Martin Scorsese I had been wanting to see since “Cape Fear” (1991), the Scorsese that can put a hypnotic spin on a big, fat American genre piece so he could inject it with his trademark skill and blustery. He had his ubiquitous box office draw Leonardo DiCaprio as the federal marshal investigating the disappearance of an asylum patient on a sealed off island set in the 1950’s when there were still utilization of shock therapy trends. I wish Scorsese had been more merciless with his gallery of malevolent characters and gone all the way with a vivid and lacerating shock as a conclusion, something to really pound us into a blackout. I can't help but think the ending cops out and a crueler ending should have been called for.

Regardless, his psychodramatic horror is swelling in expressionistic shadows and fog weirdness. Scorsese said that he was inspired by the silent classic “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” (1919) and the asylum melodrama “Shock Corridor” (1963). The former is a visually startling piece of German expressionism albeit dramatically limp by today’s standards, and Scorsese pretty much defuncts the value of the latter. What’s important here is that Scorsese draws from film history – the German expressionism of the 1920’s and the film noirs of the 1940’s primarily – and lifts said techniques to embolden the texture. It's hard to keep your eyes off of Scorsese's homage to tropes of the past.

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