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SHUTTER ISLAND - THE PIT OF HORROR REVIEW -- [Posted 19 February 2010]


The celebrated Oscar-winning director Martin Scorsese returns with Shutter Island, his first suspense thriller since 1991's Cape Fear remake. Adapted from the 2003 novel by Dennis Lehane, the film is a psychological rollercoaster ride with chilling insights into the depths the human mind will go in the art of denial. And it is exceptionally good.

It opens on a ferry boat traversing a foggy and overcast channel in 1954. Onboard are two federal marshals, the acutely seasick Teddy (Leonardo Di Caprio) and his new partner Chuck (Mark Ruffalo). Both have been assigned to investigate the inexplicable escape of a dangerous patient from the Ashecliffe Hospital for the Criminally Insane, a fortress-like compound on the remote Shutter Island. Upon arrival, both are briefed by Deputy Warden McPherson (John Carroll Lynch) on protocol and subsequently deprived of their own firearms. They are brought before administrator Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley), who explains the baffling nature of the situation. The escaped patient is one Rachel Solando, whose crime was drowning her three children a few years prior, and who has vanished from her locked cell on a floor with several guarded stations who would have seen her making flight. The treacherous terrain, stormy weather and unnavigable nature of the oceanic channel would make escape from the island impossible for a person on foot, especially since her hospital-issue shoes are still in her closet.

Teddy is unconvinced by the good doctor's charms and believes there is more than meets the eye. After meeting with resident psychologist Dr. Naehring (Max Von Sydow), whose uncooperative nature prompts a heated confrontation from Teddy, the agents are shown to their quarters while the hospital's staff prepares for an impending hurricane. And as the gale-force winds and torrential rains batten upon the compound, Teddy begins having hallucinations of his deceased wife (Michelle Williams), recently killed in a house fire, who warns him of an unspecific danger to him on the island.

Teddy cannot abandon his investigation, and when he and Chuck make their way to a deserted chapel out in the woods during a hellacious downpour, they begin to put two and two together from the clues they've uncovered. Ashecliffe is apparently a cover for unscrupulous scientific experimentation on human patients, similar to what Teddy had seen in Nazi Germany a decade prior and which sickened him to his soul. This clearly has to be exposed. But once again, there is more than meets the eye, starting with an implication that Chuck is not the faithful partner he appears to be. Or perhaps he is, and the idea was planted in Teddy's mind just to manipulate him.

Rather than reveal any more of the plot, let's just say it takes turns this seasoned thriller enthusiast certainly didn't see coming. And under Scorsese's masterful crafting, the unreal merges with the real in ways that are at once plausible, discernible and terrifying. With frequent collaborator Robbie Robertson (formerly of The Band) supervising the music, it appears that no original cues were composed for the film. The incidental score is instead comprised of existing pieces, mostly neo-classical works from such disparate composers as Krystoff Penderecki and John Cage. The showstopping piece is a wondrous juxtaposition of Max Richter's "On The Nature Of Daylight" and Dinah Washington's "This Bitter Earth," turning the beloved songstress' wistful reflection into a mournful ode as the end credits roll.

While the seasoned DiCaprio and Kingsley are the high-rent acting talents, some of the supporting cast threaten to steal the show, starting with the always-reliable Ruffalo as Chuck. Patricia Clarkson has a great turn as a former psychiatrist at Ashecliffe whom Teddy finds once he's on the run, and whose revelations to him prove ironically true during the final act. Meanwhile character actor John Carroll Lynch, best known as Frances McDormand's doting husband in Fargo, has a fine time as McPherson, the deputy warden who is basically operations manager of Ashecliffe. And watch for a cameo by an unrecognizable Jackie Earle Haley as a patient who, it is revealed in one of the film's very best scenes, has a history with Teddy.

Jaw-dropping plot twists in thrillers like Shutter Island are only jaw-dropping the first time they're viewed. Then they gradually become last week's news, much like the "I see dead people" reveal in The Sixth Sense. Hence, it's important that the movie which transpired before the final twist be consistently engaging and memorably performed. That's why Shutter Island stands to be seen years down the road as an exemplary psychological thriller, while so many well-intentioned imitators sadly won't.

'SHUTTER ISLAND' A Film by Martin Scorsese
Starring LEONARDO DICAPRIO - MARK RUFFALO - BEN KINGSLEY - MAX VON SYDOW - MICHELLE WILLIAMS - JACKIE EARLE HALEY
Screenplay by Laeta Kalogridis based upon the novel by Dennis Lehane. Directed by Martin Scorsese.

[DISCUSS ON OUR FORUMS] [Review By Petch Lucas]
PITOFHORROR.com

SHUTTER ISLAND

YEAR: 2010

STUDIO: PARAMOUNT

COUNTRY USA

RUN TIME 138 minutes (US)

CERT: USA, R

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