Sunday, February 28, 2010

Shutter Island

From Blogger
For probably the first time, I was very excited about a Scorsese film. I have been left cold by nearly every film I've seen of his, either due to subject matters that I just cannot bring myself to care about or I'm generally unimpressed by the film. There are exceptions of course as Gangs of New York was flawed but very powerful and The Last Temptation of Christ is a masterpiece, but despite a blip here and there over the years, Scorsese generally makes films that don't speak to me.

Well, with Shutter Island he had me. I have a weak spot for psychological thrillers set in historical asylums. I gravitate towards these films, and when they work, they quickly find their places among my favorites. I found myself comparing the trailers for Shutter Island with Brad Anderson's Session 9 and the detective films of Kiyoshi Kurosawa (i.e. Cure, Retribution). Silly me assumed that Martin Scorsese was influenced by the amazing atmosphere of the Japanese detective thrillers and was making his own. If Shutter Island hails from those influences, it doesn't succeed in duplicating the tone or attention to setting. Sadly, Shutter Island instead tries to be a M. Night Shyamalan film without the tension and unlike, Shyamalan, Scorsese gives away the twist immediately. Calling Shutter Island a disappointment is an understatement.

Stop reading now if you want to avoid spoilers, because I'm about to give away everything.

My biggest issue with Shutter Island is that nothing holds together and the more I think about it, the more annoyed I get. I hate movies that depend upon a big reveal at the end that finally explains everything. The biggest problem is that they almost never hold up to repeat viewings. Well, if Shutter Island had worked up until the lame and blatantly obvious reveal that Teddy Daniels is criminally insane, then I'd just be annoyed with it in the way that I am at the filmography of Shymalan, i.e. I was entertained the first time, but it completely falls apart with any scrutiny . If one could say the same for Shutter Island, it was be a complement.

The problem is that the whole premise of Shutter Island is completely retarded. I realized to my disappointment very early on that Teddy Daniels (
Leonardo DiCaprio) was not on the island to reveal a conspiracy, but as a patient. But are we really supposed to buy this plot? Would a mental hospital allow a delusional patient to wander about their facility for a few days playing detective in order to determine if he can be cured? Shutter Island's biggest failure is that it didn't make a lick of narrative sense. I enjoyed some of the dream sequences, but again, they allowed the truth of Teddy Daniels' crime to be so obvious as to made the last 30 minutes of the movie unnecessary for anyone who was awake during the first half-hour. In fact, the second half of the movie bludgeons you with Teddy's actual story, which was evident from the not so subtle clues throughout.

However, there was one completely unforgettable part of the reveal. The moment that Dr. Cawley (Sir. Ben Kingsley) brings out the visual aids to show Teddy that all of the names in his conspiracy plot are anagrams, was the best bit of unintentional comedy that I've seen all year. But then, what could have been a downright cool detective thriller investigating the very horrific practices that happened in asylums during the first half of the 20th centry, we get another movie with a non-nonsensical plot that is simply explained by the protagonist being insane. Yawn. My advice is to watch Quills, Session 9, or The American Experience: The Lobotomist for some intense, horrifying stories of mental institutions. Or go out and see Roman Polanski's The Ghost Writer as Polanski is the master of thrilling, tense, and very paranoid thrillers.