Shutter Island

Shutter Island ★★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island isn't some "lesser work" in his filmography, as quite a few have claimed; it's another incredible movie that ranks among the director's best. From the first few scenes, it absolutely oozes with atmosphere, and you know you're in the hands of a master. A lesser director would have struggled with the hoops this story has to jump through; Scorsese makes it all seem natural.

But plot is really secondary here; despite all of the hype surrounding the movie's twists, they're the smaller part of why it's so great. What matters far more is the impeccable sense of paranoia and dread Scorsese builds, and the way he manages to get you so completely inside the main character's head (as he did earlier in Taxi Driver and to a lesser extent Goodfellas). This deep identification is what drives the movie forward. Even aside from the various dream sequences and visions, the film employs a number of cool tricks to more subtly communicate Teddy's psychology (editing discontinuity, odd changes in color scheme, and so on). Combined with the ominous score and the incredible dark gothic atmosphere -- the island is explored and unfolded almost like a cool adventure game -- the movie's world feels always on edge, teetering back and forth, like everything is about to come crashing down completely. And of course, it does.

The performances are also worth mentioning. Leonardo DiCaprio later played a similar role in Inception as Dom Cobb, but the difference between the two characters is astounding. Teddy is a beautifully acted character with emotional and psychological depth, whereas Cobb is a sketchily developed guy who, uhh, has wife issues or something. Compared to his performance here, DiCaprio practically sleepwalks through the latter role, and he's good in Inception too! Ben Kingsley more than matches him as the wonderful "antagonist", who looks and seems malicious (or at the very least highly disingenuous) but is just restrained enough to make his "turn" at the end believable. (At least, it's a turn from the protagonist's point of view.)

Highly recommended.