Monday, February 22, 2010

Movie Review - Shutter Island

Shutter Island - **1/2

Starring:  Leonardo Dicaprio, Ben Kingsly, Mark Ruffalo, Michelle Williams, Max Von Sydow

Directed by:  Martin Scorcese

Review:  I wasn't really sure of what to make of this movie immediately after seeing it.  The movie didn't really fail at what it was trying to do, it just seemed to be something that wasn't all that much worth doing.  This may be one of the hardest movies I've ever had to review.

The movie centers around Tedy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his most recent case assignment.  Tedy is a US Marshall and has been called in to find a prisoner who has escaped from a prison on Shutter Island.  The prison on this island is like an alcatraz for the mentally insane.  This island is miles away from the mainland and only reachable by ferry.  This seclusion from mainland society makes for the perfect scenario for a very mysterious disappearance.

Upon arriving with his partner (Mark Ruffalo) we get a glimpse of the extensive security around this prison.  There are electric barbwire fences, large gates, armed this Jurassic Park?  Nah, it's just Shutter Island.  Once we finally get inside this fortress/prison we learn that even though it is near impossible to move without anyone noticing in the prison, a female prisoner was able to escape with nobody seeing anything.  This is where I will stop with the plot as there is a great amount of mystery and twists and turns in the plot before we reach it's ultimate conclusion.

Why did this movie have me so torn?  Well there are a few reasons.  The movie constantly relies on flashbacks and memory flash sequences to flesh out a little more about the past of the main character storyline.  This includes Tedy's wife coming to him in his dreams and helping him with his case.  These parts of the movie just didn't do it for me, they just didn't feel right.  with the character that Tedy was supposed to be, the flashbacks seemed to go counter to that personality and made him seem like a different person, really.

The storyline also didn't quite flow like it should have.  Scorcese is an excellent storyteller so the story itself was TOLD well, it was just not as well constructed as it could have been.  It also seemed like everyone else in the movie was fake, like they all had their part to play and they were just doing what they're told.  It is clear this was a plot device but just made the movie seem less real to me.  Everyone had an ulterior motive and it seemed it was always malicious.  None of it just seemed to fit together quite right.

However, the movie did have it's very good parts.  DiCaprio gives a great performance and further solidifies himself as one of the greatest actors of our generation.  Teaming him up with Scorcese has become an unstoppable movie making force that I look forward to seeing again.  He plays the part perfectly of a man being driven insane by a place that exists to treat the very same illness.

On top of that Mark Ruffalo and Ben Kingsly (especially) give great performances and compliment DiCaprio very well.  Kingsly shows the great acting chops he has and it is a wonder he is not in more good movies.  Mark Ruffalo should be a star at this point and plays the perfect counterpoint to DiCaprio's Tedy.  This might be a bit of a spoiler, but Jackie Earle Haley plays a great role in the limited screen time he has in the film.  

As aforementioned, Scorcese tells the story extremely well.  He is a master of his craft and now has my vote as the best filmmaker working today (and possibly ever).  He takes joy in this island he's created and he takes joy in toying with the audience through the story.

Ultimately, the ending of the movie justifies and even explains away some of the gripes I had.  So much so, in fact, that had I known the outcome since the beginning I probably would have given the movie a better rating.  However, as it is now, the movie just didn't quite feel right for me.  Sometimes you walk away from a movie feeling that way, that things felt forced, for whatever reason, and it ultimately leaves you wondering what could have been.  However, the players did well with what they had, and I actually like the movie more the more I think about it/reflect on the ending.  My only issue with the ending is that I saw it coming shortly before it actually happened.  It was still cool to see it all come together, however, it would have been better to toy with the audience a little more, or perhaps add another twist.  But who am I to argue with some like Martin Scorcese?  He knows his stuff and it's his genius (along with DiCaprio's) that make this worth your time.

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