Shutter Island: movie review
Based on Dennis Lehane’s book, ‘Shutter Island’ uses all the classic horror-film pyrotechnics and old-school frights to build a paranoid atmosphere.
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The problem is that Scorsese is more keyed into the schlock than the art. “Shutter Island” would have been better if it was less ambitious, less adorned with history-of-film pyrotechnics. The story line is replete with switcheroos and double whammies and flashbacks and fantasias, and some of the game playing is ingenious and scary, but ultimately this is a puzzle movie trying to be grand opera.Skip to next paragraph
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The actors try their best to fit into this maelstrom. Kingsley and Von Sydow come off best, perhaps because their roles are the most clearly demarcated. Patricia Clarkson, Emily Mortimer, and Jackie Earle Haley give it their bughouse best. DiCaprio, whose character is racked by memories of liberating Dachau as a soldier and the horrifying demise of his wife (Michelle Williams), seems too callow – although the miscasting here isn’t as startling as it was in Scorsese’s “The Aviator,” where DiCaprio’s Howard Hughes seemed barely old enough to shave. Ruffalo is adept but somewhat recessive. On a second viewing of this film, after its mysteries are revealed, his performance probably makes more sense. But who would want to see “Shutter Island” twice?
Scorsese has made some of the best horror films of the modern era, but their horror, as in “Taxi Driver” and “Raging Bull,” is all psychological. “Shutter Island” is, ultimately, a psychological horror film, too, but you have to slog through an awful lot of loony-bin stylistics to get much out of it. It comes on strong, but in its bloody heart of hearts it’s no more resonant than one of those old Vincent Price-Edgar Allan Poe contraptions – and less entertaining, too. Grade: C (Rated R for disturbing violent content, language, and some nudity.)