The Film: Shutter Island

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Martin Scorsese teams up with his protégé, Leonardo DiCaprio, in this adaptation of Dennis LeHane’s novel, Shutter Island. The film flows like an in-your-face homage to Hitchcock and Kubrick, perhaps exposing Scorsese out of his comfort zone. Stylistically stunning and utterly enjoyable, Shutter Island is definitely one to watch at LU Cinema during Week 8 of term.

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Shutter Island
* * * *

Directed by
Martin Scorsese

Starring
Leonardo DiCaprio
Ben Kingsley
Emily Mortimer
Mark Ruffalo
Max von Sydow

Runtime
138 mins[/info]

The psychological thriller is set in 1954 and opens with federal marshal Teddy Daniels (DiCaprio) and his new parter, Chuck (Ruffalo), on a ferry to Shutter Island, where a mental hospital for the criminally insane is situated. Teddy is a WWII veteran which adds a little depth to his character, as the asylum and the suspicious German doctors working there remind him of the past traumas that haunt his mind. Teddy and Chuck are investigating the apparent disappearance of one of the asylum’s patients, Rachel Solando (Mortimer), who was imprisoned for murdering her three children and has apparently escaped from a locked room. However, Teddy has alterior motives for wanting to visit the asylum and also believes that there is more to Rachel’s disappearance than the staff let on. He believes that his wife’s killer is being held in the hospital and also that the staff are performing bizarre experiments on the inmates. After questioning Dr, Cawley (Kingsley), the head of Ashecliff Hospital, Teddy begins to suspect that there is something dark and secretive going on in the mysterious Ward C, a unit housing the most dangerous of the inmates. A hurricane leaves Teddy and Chuck stranded on the island and Teddy soon starts to develop headaches and photosensitivity. As his condition develops, he must fight to uncover the truth about the eerie asylum before he succumbs to madness.

Shutter Island is a visual masterpiece, perfectly encapsulating the style of 1954 with a Scorsese twist. The soundtrack is reminiscent of Kubrick’s The Shining and the style is also rather similar. Whilst the plot isn’t particularly original, it certainly keeps you thinking, and this is no ordinary psychological thriller. Film noir interspersed with melodrama, horror and even a little gruesome at times, Shutter Island is perhaps one of the most interesting films you’ll see this year. The film is mysterious and surreal at times, encouraging you to question the events taking place. It’s difficult to describe the plot without any spoilers, and I advise you to avoid detailed plot summaries online.

The effect of an island as a prison works well in building up the horror elements of the film. Teddy is trapped by a vast nothingness, with nowhere to escape to or hide. Claustrophobic and empty at the same time, Scorsese proves that location is everything in making a successful thriller. He and DiCaprio make a good team, and I’ve enjoyed the collaboration in films such as Gangs of New York and The Departed, but the films are starting to blur together despite altering the genres. DiCaprio suits the role and plays it well, but it feels a little opaque at times and is very similar to his characters in previous team-ups with Scorsese.

Shutter Island was intended as a B-Movie, but this is without a doubt the work of an auteur. Any fan of Scorsese will recognise the style, particularly in the cinematography, characterisation and distinctive mise-en-scéne; dimly lit, dark colours, dramatic music and vibrant reds. At 138 minutes long, the film takes a long time to get into and can be very slow at times. Despite being almost two-and-a-half hours long, the ending feels extremely rushed and the audience are still left working out some of the plot whilst the credits are almost over.

If you’re looking for a little escapism from exams, Shutter Island is definitely one to watch. However, if you’re looking for a film to relax and take it easy, this film really isn’t for you. A little confusing at times, twisting all the time, it’s difficult to just sit back and watch the pretty pictures. Screenings take place on Saturday 12th and Sunday 13th June at 7:30pm in LU Cinema, Bowland Lecture Theatre. Tickets are only £2 with a Purplecard, which to be honest, is quite a bargain for 138 minutes of Scorsese magic.

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