Friday, March 26, 2010

Movie Review: Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island

Once you've got that Boston accent down, you might as well keep using it. And once a director like Martin Scorsese has chosen you as his new leading man, you might as well run with it. (Heck, Scorsese is so talented, even I'd work with him.)

Leonardo DiCaprio, predictably, stars in 2010's Shutter Island, a thriller with excellent production values and performances. The time is 1954. DiCaprio plays U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels, who travels to the mental institution on Shutter Island in Boston Harbor with his new partner, Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo). They've been called there to investigate the disappearance of a female patient, who is considered extremely dangerous, but the institution's leader, Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley), seems hesistant to really help their investigation. The danger presented by the island's patients and an incoming storm aid the mood of this unpredictable thriller.

This is, indeed, a genre picture, and I believe the critics who say that this is relatively conventional for Scorsese. But it's an exceptional thriller for a few reasons, including the two-hour buildup to the payoff, causing a nail-biting crescendo to a disorienting symphony of a movie.

If Shutter Island is remembered 30 years from now, it will be for two reasons. The first is DiCaprio's exagerated delivery of the line, "We are duly uh-poin-ded fed-uh-ral mar-shuls." The second is the film's who-who of supporting stars, including Max von Sydow, Jackie Earle Haley, and Patricia Clarkson.

Though out of Scorsese's confortable vein, the movie was excellently directed. Scorsese leaves his mark with the usual preeminence of wide angle lenses and some obnoxious filmmaking. Plenty of the shock cuts he uses during action scenes are right out of his other films, and his manipulation of sound is extreme- if you're looking at a kitten in this film, you're probably listening to an F-15.

Shutter Island looks like a film noir from the 50's, colorized and modernized with harsher language and content. None of this would have worked without the excellent production values and cinematography (by Robert Richardson).

I'm not a student of Scorsese, but I liked this film. I don't believe he makes bad films, ever, but I do believe he makes forgettable ones.

Shutter Island is neither.

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