The film opens with a boat piercing through the fog.
Two men stand outside, watching as they approach the island. Instantly, we sense that something is wrong. The lighting on the characters don’t match the background very well. It was as if both Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo were clearly standing in front of a green screen. Normally, I would instantly recognize the amateurish effort, however the film is directed by the one and only Martin Scorsese who has the reputation of being one of the greatest filmmakers alive. Surely such a thing has to be an intentional move.
Sure enough, when the two leads step foot on the island, their figures are grounded. It is clear that they belong here.
DiCaprio plays Edward ‘Teddy’ Daniels a U.S Marshall who has come to Shutter Island, the home of a mental institute to investigate the disappearance of a mental patient, Rachel Solando. Together with his partner, Chuck Aule (Played by Mark Ruffalo) Teddy heads to the mental institute known as the Ashecliffe Hospital.
The music is clearly ominous as the duo travel to the hospital, giving the film it’s tone from the very beginning. Scorsese shoots with a clear vision in mind, at the start, he uses tracking shots with a surreal sense of symmetry. This also gives the already Gothic architecture of the hospital a much darker and surrealistic atmosphere.
The Hospital personnel take away their weapons, even if it opposes law. It is clear that the two U.S Marshals do not have any authority here.
The plot thickens. There seems to be something darker lurking in the institute, perhaps a government conspiracy of sorts.
Teddy starts to crack under the pressure of the deranged atmosphere of the hospital. He starts getting migraines, dream of bizarre nightmares and sees delusions when he is still awake.
On Shutter Island, the notion of sanity will be tested.
Martin Scorsese’s direction is impeccable.
The film’s Mise en scene is fantastical, turning scenes into almost dream – like sequences and the actual dream – like sequences are portrayed with a vibrant unreal aesthetic when compared to the film’s reality. Many shots in the film are composed with precision, when the characters visit one of the prisons for the mental patient, the large open staircases are portrayed as a never – ending spiral – like prison, encasing the characters within.
While this may not be Leonardo DiCaprio’s best performance, he does perform rather adequately for the role and was not a hindrance to the film, in fact most of the supporting actors were too very proficient in their roles.
Sadly, while the film does have it’s strong points, it is also a weakness. Many of the film’s ‘wow factor’ replies heavily on plot twists to create a confusing and disorientating experience to the viewer. Although the film’s editing and other film crafts do play a part in such their effect was not as powerful as the film’s use of plot twists. After a second watch, when many of the film’s perplexing puzzles were gone and while it was interesting to pick up the little details that later reveal the film’s conclusion, it is not enough the drive the film. It is similar to Christoper Nolan’s year 2000 film ‘Memento’ where after a first watch, the film would have lost it’s momentum and wouldn’t be able to carry it forward.
Still, just like ‘Memento’, ‘Shutter Island’ was a fantastic first watch experience and it’s one which will remain in the minds of the viewers even after a long time.