Posted by: Dr P | April 8, 2010

Shutter Island

Shutter Island – the new name for Hillary’s Blinds! Actually, no, it’s the title of the latest Scorsese/DiCaprio tie-in, a thriller set in and around a mental hospital on Boston’s island of the same name.

As the film opens it’s 1954 and US marshal Teddy Daniels and partner arrive at the remote hospital; it’s a vicious, remote place, windswept and forlorn and filled with raving lunatics and delusional inmates. It’s Rochdale but without the tributes to Gracie Fields.

Daniels meets the strange Dr “Creepy” Cawley (Ben Kingsley), who informs him that despite their best efforts, one of their patients has gone missing. Quite how this is possible in a locked-down secure facility is bizarre enough, but when Daniels meets other guards and inmates, he starts to suspect that a very tangled and sinister operation is in place. As he probes deeper into the disappearance, it quickly becomes apparent that not all is as it outwardly appears … and just what is going on in the heavily-guarded and isolated lighthouse?

Before long, Daniels is warned that he may never leave the island, and so he is forced to go on the run – not easy on a rocky island battered by the elements – and also attempt to uncover not only what is happening at Shutter Island, but also work out the strange images and dreams he is having.

As the film moves into its final third, we start to question almost everything we have learned, and some fairly hefty twists and turns are thrown upon us. It’s a rollercoaster ride, although one which may not be quite as surprising as intended, if you watch the opening scenes closely enough.

DiCaprio puts in a superb performance as the tortured Daniels, a man coming more apart at the seams with every hour that passes, whilst Kingsley is also both disturbing and amusing as Cawley, a man whose words and actions challenge everything Daniels holds dear.

The early parts of the movie are quite jumpy, particularly the scene in the most secure wing of the hospital while the storm rages – but after the scariness of that period, the movie settles down into a routine psychological thriller. For me, that took a little of the edge off the piece, although I still enjoyed watching the story play out.

If you’re good at guessing twists you’ll already have figured out the movie’s big payoff by the time it’s delivered, but it’s still intriguing to watch it develop. Had the director thrown in one last twist to overthrow everything we’d learned that may have been even better, but as it stands it’s a not-quite-totally-satisfying conclusion.

A competent and enjoyable thriller, certainly worthy of 3 stars in my view, but perhaps the M Night Shyamalan “saw it coming” twist was slightly too predictable. One for fans of Scorsese and DiCaprio.

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