Synopsis: Two U.S. Marshals are sent to investigate the disappearance of a murderess from a hospital for the criminally insane in Shutter Island.
Release Date: February 19, 2010 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Thriller, Drama
“We haven’t heard the truth once yet, Chuck” – Leonardo DiCaprio as Teddy in Shutter Island.
Sanity hangs by a thread on Shutter Island and it is becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate the sane from the insane, the real from the hallucinations. The facility situated on this tumultuous island is a mental hospital for the criminally insane. The convicted patients sent to Shutter Island have been rejected from all other mental institutions because of the nature of their extreme psychosis and gruesome crimes. Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his partner Chuck (Mark Ruffalo) are US Marshalls who have been sent to Shutter Island to investigate the mysterious disappearance of one of the insane murderers, Rachel.
Although DiCaprio’s Boston accent drops in and out, he is still able to give a very well-measured and layered performance. Teddy and Chuck arrive by ferry, the only way onto and off the island, through a blanket of white mist, as if arriving from nowhere. From the moment they dock, the visual motifs of barbed wire and electric fences make the island seem claustrophobic. Initially, Daniels’s arrival was met with openness and cooperation. Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley), the head psychologist, was extremely generous in providing them with the information necessary to conduct their investigation.
As Daniels begins to delve deeper into Rachel’s disappearance, it soon becomes clear that things are not as simple as they seem. His trust in the hospital staff quickly turns to suspicion and before long Daniels is swept up in the whirlwind maze that is the hospital, which threatens to take away what he has come to believe is reality.
Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island is a richly crafted suspense thriller with elements of terrifyingly docile horror. It combines stunning visuals with the ugliness of human nature to create a complex world in which reality is always subjective. Since we view the entire film from the perspective of Teddy Daniels, our perception of reality is always tied to his. The film does a fantastic job of suspending the knowledge of the viewer by using Daniels as a potentially unreliable narrator. The viewer is perpetually left with ambiguous conclusions, never knowing which way is up even at the film’s end.
However, because the establishment of a firm sense of reality was not prioritized at the beginning of Shutter Island, we, unfortunately, do not get a very good sense of the loosening of the seams of reality as Teddy Daniels slips further into insanity.
The lighting and framing in Shutter Island are precise and beautiful. The shots and angles chosen were definitely innovative and were always keenly aware of Daniels’s point of view. The movement of the camera gave the film a very unique feel but it was often jarring and the construction of space was very loose. This looseness led to quite a bit of (intentional) discontinuity, for instance, the 180-degree line rule is broken constantly.
At times this discontinuous construction of space aided in the storytelling, especially when Daniels begins to slip in and out of dreams and hallucinations. However, it seems that the construction of space should have been tighter and more rigid toward the beginning of the film to represent Daniels’s stronger grip on reality and later shifted to mirror his mental shift.
From the maze-like cells to the frighteningly perfect grounds to the whitewashed innards of the hospital; the sets are impeccable in Shutter Island. Not only are they extremely detailed but they often followed the nuanced internal journey of Teddy Daniels. The strongest example of this can be seen in how the grounds of the mental hospital always match Daniels’s frame of mind. When Teddy’s understanding of reality is more stable, the grounds of the hospital are perfectly manicured and neat. When his reality begins to unravel, a hurricane hits and the hospital appears wild and disheveled.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Martin Scorsese
- Screenwriter: Laeta Kalogridis
- Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio (Teddy Daniels), Mark Ruffalo (Chuck Aule), Ben Kingsley (Dr. John Cawley), Emily Mortimer (Rachel Solando), Michelle Williams (Dolores Chanal), Max von Sydow (Dr. Jeremiah Naehring), Patricia Clarkson (Ethel Barton)
- Editor(s): Thelma Schoonmaker
- Cinematographer: Robert Richardson
- Production Designer(s):Dante Ferretti
- Costume Designer: Sandy Powell
- Country Of Origin: USA