“Shutter Island” is a sophisticated psychological thriller with more ambiguity than a Conservative policy pledge.
Martin Scorsese once again directs Leonardo DiCaprio as Teddy Daniels, a Federal US Marshal sent to investigate the disappearance of a criminally insane prisoner from the institution on Shutter Island. Daniels arrives by ferry to the island, along with his new partner Chuck Aule. I’m sure I can’t be the only one to find it ironic to see someone who once sailed on the Titanic feel queasy on a tiny boat just off Boston Harbor.
On their arrival, they are taken to meet Doctor Cawley (Ben Kingsley), who is remarkably PC for 1954, preferring to refer to those housed here as “patients” rather than “prisoners”, and who believes that rather than lobotomising or drugging his patients, respecting and listening to them will give them more benefit.
However Daniels, who served in the Second World War and is still carrying his own trauma from the experience, is suspicious of the German Doctor Naehring. Daniels is also failing to come to terms with the death of his wife, Dolores (Michelle Williams), who turns up in all of his dreams. Nothing there to render him insane, then.
DiCaprio again proves that he has come a long way from the pretty boy image of over a decade ago, and is now a seriously fine actor. His intensity and emotion kept a rather well-populated afternoon cinema crowd silently enthralled for the whole two hours and twenty minutes
Shot with the familiar and welcome Scorsese finesse, with stunning yet subtle cinematography, and a soundtrack that combines Mahler with a Jaws-like theme, “Shutter Island” is a film of conflict and contrast, of fire and water - lots of water - , madness and sanity, chaos and calm, opulence and destitution. It seems to highlight the complexity and ingenuity of the human brain, no matter how distorted the mind may seem.
Yet it also shows the terrifying darkness that can manifest itself in anything from the murder of an unfaithful husband to genocide in a death camp. It does not answer the question of what makes this happen, rather it is left up to the viewer to wonder, which only makes the movie all the more eerie, and is just one aspect which will ensure the viewer is still thinking about “Shutter Island” long after the credits have started rolling.