February 26, 2010
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Scorsese is a genius in his own right. But for the first time that I’ve noticed, his films are rich with sly homages and nudges to other films and trademarks of other directors. In Shutter Island, Kubrick and Hitchcock seem to come to mind.
Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Edward Daniels, a U.S. Marshall, sent to Shutter Island to investigate the disappearance of a patient. Very quickly, we see that Daniels has ulterior motives for taking this assignment. Daniels and his partner (Mark Ruffalo) are greeted by the Dr. Cawley (the brilliant Ben Kingsley, a scene stealer in this role). Met warmly but somewhat hesitantly, Daniels begins to see a conspiracy. Bit roles by Michelle Williams, Elias Koteas, and Jackie Earle Haley give the film an almost ensemble feel to it.
The film is a film that could have been released in any other decade and found an audience. It’s a classic psychological thriller, but unlike most horror movies and thrillers, the violence and graphic nature is quite tame. Scorsese creates the uneasiness with classic Hitchcockian twists and cryptic dialogue. Like all good films in the thriller genre, we see only what our protagonist sees, leaving us to work with him to uncover the truth. The feeling of Kubrick is reminiscent of the The Shining, in that the environment is as much a character as the actors. I kept listening for The Shining‘s distinctive score to jump in.
The third act is what seals this film in a successful conclusion. Unlike films like A Perfect Getaway, the resolution plays no tricks. Instead, it shows us the truth while confirming that we weren’t cheated by following DiCaprio. The trailer for this film shows almost exactly what you get on the screen, a rare feat today. It’s Scorsese’s horror movie. Or at the least, the closest he’s ever been. 4 out of 5 stars.