If you haven’t seen it yet then I forgive you. For some reason this wonderful film by Martin Scorsese didn’t get the unanimous praise it deserved. This can be rectified by watching this but you really really must not read this review. I think this is one of those films where knowing anything is a bit of a spoiler. If you’ve already seen it my thoughts are below the break.
Shutter Island is a very scary film. I’ve always found the idea of losing your memories a haunting prospect. Maybe it’s my own personal history with relation to one of my grandparents, but whenever I see alzheimers or other memory related conditions in the media it gets to me. Shutter Island isn’t just scary in the way it plays on our emotions, often the film is scary through traditional horror aspects: the gloomy lighting and shadows with who-knows-what within, a sea of rats and Hitchcock-esque moments of vertigo.
Leonardo Dicaprio has killed every single role he has been in in the last 10 years. He’s not even 40 yet and unlike famous actresses he’s just going to keep getting them. It’s hugely exciting because we have so many great performances left to witness! This is just one of them with Leo creating a complex multi-layered character whose emotional turmoil and drive for the truth are totally believable. Ben Kingsley’s performance was also excellence, throughout the film I got a strange sense that he pitied Teddy, Leo’s character, and when the twist came it gave me a massive sense of realisation. I think I’ll have to watch the film again so truly appreciate his contribution because I’m sure it was much more subtle than I managed to absorb during my first watch.
The twist! This is what I was eluding to in the opening paragraph. I think even going into this film knowing that there’s a twist is a big spoiler. It made me at least spend the entire film pondering rather than simply lying back and enjoying the ride. Others have moaned that they saw the twist coming. Well good. If a film gives you a certain expectation and then completely hits you from your blind spot with a plot twist that isn’t an enjoyable experience. Very seldomly have I enjoyed a film where this has occurred: Million Dollar Baby being the exception I can think of. That only works because it’s a character driven piece and Shutter Island needed to foreshadow that turn of events for it to work in repeated viewings, to make any coherent sense at all and because it couldn’t rely on Million Dollar Baby’s trick since the characters are not what they seem. Finding out Teddy’s got a dark past and that he’s a psychiatric patient at the institution wouldn’t without any of the other pieces have worked and was all the more effective for that.
I really enjoyed every aspect of this film and will be watching it again in the near future. I’m sad I missed this at the cinema, I should have had more faith in Scorsese’s recent run (Gangs of New York, Aviator and Departed. They’re all amazing) and will remember never to trust critics.