Director: Martin Scorcese
Starring: Leonardo di Caprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley
The highly-anticipated and much-delayed release of Martin Scorsese’s follow-up of 2006 Oscar-winner The Departed. Scorsese’s work is often described as being a nearly perfect fusion of cinematographic beauty and gripping narrative, citing many to herald him as one of – if not the – greatest filmmaker of his generation. Understandable, then, that the millions of people who will see this film will – and should – expect cinematic brilliance. Unfortunately, Scorsese doesn’t quite deliver.
The psychological thriller follows U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels (DiCaprio) and his partner Chuck Aule (Ruffalo) as they investigate the disappearance of a female patient from a facility for the ‘Criminally Insane’ on Shutter Island. Based on Dennis Lehane’s novel, the film reveals itself not to be the 21st century whodunnit that audiences might expect, but instead is by no means light viewing. Daniels is revealed immediately to be psychologically damaged in his own right, stemming from his experiences during the liberation of a concentration camp and the death of his wife Dolores (Michelle Williams). The cast is exceptional and the story itself is certainly gripping, as is the developing complexity of Daniels, speaking highly of Scorsese’s tremendous ability to extract the most out of his characters and, therefore, his actors.
The potential of the sum of the parts of Shutter Island is sadly underscored, however, by a number of nagging issues. Every now and again – notably in the opening scenes – the audience is treated to a five-minute explanatory dialogue which doesn’t flow, but rather staggers quite unnaturally, frankly smacking of “Oh hai, exposition!”, while being overladen with numerous deus ex machina moments. Furthermore, the development of the story is festooned with clichés – though this can be forgiven given the strength of the direction, coupled with the astonishing visual majesty (Scorsese’s use of stairways is especially commendable), as can the relatively predictable story-arc. Regarding the cinematography, much like the remainder of the film, it is let down by comparatively lacklustre editing. The bellowing score echoes that of There Will Be Blood in its jarring, uncomfortable exclamations that litter the opening scenes and sets you up for an altogether sinister, psychologically fraught experience.
While somewhat flawed in its attempt to balance both the depth of the story with its celluloidal execution, Shutter Island is certainly one of the strongest films of the moment; engaging, emotionally charged and worth multiple viewings, if nothing else but to untangle the weaving narrative. One can’t shake of the feeling that it could have been just that little bit better.
In a nutshell: Not among Scorsese’s best work, but one of the strongest films of the year so far.