By Bo Fisher
Celebrated director offers new genre of film, intriguing viewers
After four years of keeping fans on edge, anticipating his next big film, director Martin Scorsese has returned and delivered. Scorsese has teamed up with Leonardo DiCaprio for the fourth time this decade to produce another instant hit. However this time around, the duo is surprising its viewers with a genre quite atypical of the classic director. Instead of the traditional Scorsese plots that revolve around organized crime, the two found a new way to enthrall viewers: a disturbing, mysterious, psychological thriller. The verdict-â€”A+ all around.
Based off Denis Lehane’s novel and adapted into a screenplay by Laeta Kalogridis, Shutter Island takes place off the shore of Boston harbor. Set in 1954, the story centers on U.S. Federal Marshall Teddy Daniels (DiCaprio) and his partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo). The two detectives travel by ship to the gothic psychiatric ward Ash Cliff to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a patient convicted of murdering her three children.
In the meantime Daniels conducts a side investigation of his own, searching for the man he believes is responsible for starting a fire that killed his wife. The patient’s name is Andrew Laeddis and is believed to be in the asylum.
Though the classic Scorsese plotlines were not present in this film, the director did not have any trouble showing off his always captivating and dramatic vision. Accompanied by a powerful music score from music supervisor Robbie Robertson, the film gives a gothic, early 20th century feel. The music reminds me of soundtracks from classic horror movies such as The Wolf Man and Dracula. Ominous and deep in bass, the music fits right in with the eerie scenery that Scorsese sets up.
In two separate scenes, Daniels flashes back to a war experience in which he is watching a German soldier die a slow and painful death from a gunshot wound to the face. Robertson and Scorsese use a classical piece composed by Gustav Mahler and played by Prazak Quartet to fit the scene perfectly. The unsettling sight of a helpless soldier begging for an immediate death to the calming and smooth melody will make your heart sink in pity and the hairs on your arms spring up.
Aside from the deeply artistic directing provided by Scorsese, memorable performances by DiCaprio and Ben Kingsley (Dr. Cawley) steal the show, adding their own individual drama to the film. Although Scorsese does not flex his organized crime theme as much as he has in past films, such as GoodFellas and Mean Streets, he finds a way to play with his male insecurity and self-destruction theme.
DiCaprio’s character is a textbook example of how to portray a soul tortured by his past. Much like his performance from The Aviator, which Scorsese also directed, DiCaprio’s character falls into a trap of confusion and self-torture.
Kingsley’s Dr. Cawley, the mysterious, well-mannered doctor and supervisor of the ward, offers a subtle, yet sinister feel that is much needed to fulfill the film’s intentions.
Ted Levine, who plays the ward of the hospital, also adds to the daunting atmosphere, intimidating Daniels in a brief conversation about who, between the two of them, is a more violent person.
After countless twists and turns leading to the film’s climax, confusion consume’s the audience. However, it all pays off in the final 30 minutes when all the characters’ secrets are revealed, leaving the audience with severe chills and their jaws stuck to the floor.
Shutter Island may be a film that some need to see twice, maybe even a third time to understand, but the mesmerizing directing of Scorsese, the darkly crafted music of Robertson and the performance of the cast offer much reason to see it at least once. Once you get past the confusion, Shutter Island will be one to remember.