Monday, March 8, 2010

Shutter Island

Is is no secret that Martin Scorsese is a master storyteller. One only needs to look at his directing repertoire to come to this conclusion. Such is the case with Shutter Island. Here, Scorsese teams up once again with Leonardo DiCaprio to tell the story of U.S. Marshall Teddy Daniels who, with his partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo), is sent to Shutter Island, which houses a government facility for mentally unstable criminals., to investigate the disappearance of an inmate. Once on the island, events begin to unfold mysteriously and Daniels begins to believe that there is something more to this scenario than what meets the eye.

What makes this story so compelling is the element of the supernatural and the unstable psychosis. Scorsese is extremely careful in what he displays to the audience so that by the time the credits roll, he knows that the audience isn't exactly sure what to believe. The story begins simply enough, but then Teddy is informed by Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley) that the woman who disappeared did so as if she evaporated through the walls. Other encounters between Teddy and the inhabitants of the island lead him to believe that there a shady undercurrent to this case.

Shutter Island is portrayed with a Hitchcock-esque style of suspense. There is always the sense that something quite large is happening right under our nose and yet no one, audience and on-screen characters alike, is able to quite figure out what it is. And even when the ending is finally spelled out and a conclusion is drawn together, Scorsese still leave the door ajar for other possibilities. Along with the ever-present suspense is the film-noir style that DiCaprio evokes with his portrayal of Daniels. Yes, Dr. Cawley seems to exude mystery and menace every time he is on screen, but it is the obvious baggage that Teddy Daniels is carrying which makes him equally hard to trust. Shutter Island seems to draw out post-traumatic memories of World War II for Teddy and it all that the audience can do to determine why this is.

Scorsese and DiCaprio prove once again that this is a tandem that is not to be trifled with. Some movie goers may disapprove of the disjointed nature of the film, not to mention the way the ending will blindside viewers. And yet, this is exactly what Scorsese has in mind. While the audience members ask question after question, trying to piece together the events unfolding before them, Teddy find himself doing the exact same thing. And believe me, the ending of this film will blindside no one more than Teddy Daniels himself.