Saturday, February 20, 2010

Shutter Island

The set up: Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo are federal marshals sent in 1954 to the dark and foreboding Shutter Island to investigate the near impossible disappearance of a patient from the island's asylum for the criminally insane. It soon becomes clear the staff is as suspect as the patients and that DiCaprio may actually be right when he jokingly says insanity is contagious.

The good? So much has here has been done right. The mystery quickly grows with so many possible explanations to pick from. Is it supernatural? Could the ghost Dicaprio's dead wife literally be helping him solve the mystery? A government conspiracy? Continuation of Nazi experiments?
There are some beautifully shot dream/hallucination scenes infused with drama and emotion by superb acting on the part of DiCaprio and Michelle Williams who plays his dead wife. The script is smart, clever with comments on the horrors of war and how the view of humanity was altered by assembly line like mass murder of the Holocaust. DiCaprio is the center of this drama in ways you will only realize at the end but the rest of the cast is equally adept.

The bad? I guess I should give the obligatory spoiler alert here...Half way through the movie I began to suspect where it was going to end and said a little prayer to the movie gods that it not be true. In the post Sixth Sense era, moviegoers have been, in my opinion, deluged with movies that abuse the "twist" ending. Often it is just lazy storytelling rather then a clever trick. It was not until later that I found out Shutter Island is based on a book; so my one big criticism does not really add up to too much. Rather than a conscious decision by Scorsese, the ending is consistent with the book. What is the twist? Don't worry I won't tell but let's just say that doctors on Shutter Island have some pretty progressive treatment methods.

One last note, when Brittany Murphy died, I saw someone online post, "who is going to play the crazy girls now?" I nominate Michelle Williams because in Shutter Island she plays crazy in ways that are scary good.