Island Of The Damned
Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman was on in cinemas in the UK and US in November and is now on Netflix internationally. So Tripwire set its editor-in-chief Joel Meadows and senior editor Andrew Colman the mammoth task of watching and reviewing all of his films. Next up is 2010’s Hitchcockian drama Shutter Island reviewed by Joel Meadows…
Director: Martin Scorsese
Stars: Leonardo Di Caprio, Ben Kingsley, Mark Ruffalo
Returning to the thriller milieu he last visited back in 1991 with Cape Fear, Scorsese’s Shutter Island is very much a thriller in the Hitchcock vein. Dicaprio is back collaborating with the director again, this time as US Marshal Teddy Daniels. Daniels is called in to investigate the disappearance of a murderer from a secure US government facility.
Based on the book of the same name by Dennis Lehane, Shutter Island is a far more effective thriller than Cape Fear. The hermetic setting of the island where Daniels and his partner Chuck Aule (Ruffalo) creates a real sense of despair and alienation. As the story progresses, the viewer realises that things are really not what they seem when we first meet Daniels and Scorsese scatters snippets of the truth behind the events throughout.
Critically it received mixed reviews but it had the distinction of garnering the biggest opening weekend for a Scorsese movie to date.
Support from the likes of Ben Kingsley as the oleaginous Dr Cawley, head of the facility, and Ted Levine as the sinister Warden serve to ratchet up the paranoia until the film builds to an impressive crescendo. Di Caprio is on top form here as a man possessed to uncover the truth even if that truth could be too much for him. Ruffalo’s easy charm and affable onscreen persona makes him the perfect foil for Di Caprio’s demented mania. The denouement, when it comes, is well-handled and clever.
Shutter Island does follow in the cinematic tradition of prison movies like Escape From Alcatraz and The Shawshank Redemption but Scorsese lends it something fresh and new thanks to its constant discombobulation of the viewer.
Scorsese’s regular partner in crime, production designer Dante Ferretti, brings his A game here visually, creating the claustrophobic period look of Shutter Island with aplomb. Director of photography Robert Richardson, who shot Scorsese’s The Aviator and Casino, also lends an extra layer of menace and psychological drama here, taking us to a cinematic place which doesn’t feel like the real world, reflecting Daniels’ heightened sense of fear about his current predicament. The score by another of the director’s regular collaborators, Robbie Robertson, really builds on the atmosphere too, with him taking aural inspiration from the likes of classic movie maestro Bernard Herrmann, who created the music for many of Hitch’s seminal films. Also, compared with other films from the director’s oeuvre like Gangs Of New York, thanks to a lot of location shoots to create the island environment, it avoids the theatrical artificiality of films like Gangs. It is a little bit pulpy at times, partly because of its source material, but it transcends this through a strong script, an impressive attention to detail with its setting and some exceptional performances.
It is more satisfying than Cape Fear because Scorsese manages to invest Di Caprio’s protagonist with humanity and vulnerability and it is directed in a far more restrained fashion than his other foray into thriller. Di Caprio also turns in one of his finest performances here to date too, more nuanced and subtle than his previous work.
Shutter Island feels like classic cinema and, as a homage to the work of Alfred Hitchcock, it is an accomplished and involving movie. It was accused at the time of being nothing more than a pastiche of other better directors’ work but a decade on, it is a film that deserves a re-examination as it is a genuinely well-crafted thriller with an intelligent look at the fragility of the human psyche.
Here’s the film’s trailer
Here’s the other Month Of Marty reviews so far as well
And here’s our review of The Irishman from last year too