You'll See it Coming
Set in 1954, Shutter Island is an asylum for the criminally insane. An isolated facility far off shore, where the worst of the worst can be held, and escape is impossible. Leonardo DiCaprio (Titanic, Blood Diamond, Romeo and Juliet) is a Federal Marshall by the name of Teddy Daniels, sent to the island to investigate the escape and disappearance of a female inmate. As things progress, he discovers all is not as it seems...
For director Martin Scorsese (famous for films such as Taxi Driver and Raging Bull) this is his second foray into what could loosely be described as 'Horror Movie' territory (His other being Cape Fear). Though personally I would call it a psychological thriller, it has been filmed more like it was intended to capture a horror movie atmosphere, and seems to have been classed as such. So I will cover it in that context.
It's a strangely mixed bag. The cinematography for the most part is excellent. It looks superb, but the pacing and editing never quite gel. A perfect example is the introductory scene as DiCaprio and Mark Rufullo (playing DiCaprio's sidekick, Chuck Aule) arrive at the gates to the asylum. The 'menacing' music is so over-the-top and heavy handed, not to mention jarring and unnecessary, to the point where it immediately ruins any feeling of menace, creepiness and suspicion that it is supposed engender. It is edited together and filmed in a way that feels as though someone who has never been a big fan of horror movies, thinks horror movies are made this way. A feeling that pervades the entire film.
As a result, few if any of the moments that are meant to be 'scary' or 'creepy' ever achieve their goal. The film has very much the same tone and pace from beginning to end, where the viewer feels like they are being lead by the hand very slowly through a path they can clearly see the end of, and make their own way to, much more quickly
Unfortunately this is also one of those films that succeeds or fails on the strength of its 'surprise twist' ending (If it was not intended to, it was certainly filmed and edited that way). The problem being that said-ending stands out a mile after about the first ten to fifteen minutes or so. I won't give it away, but it feels as though it were taken from a book entitled: “How to end a movies with crazy people and an asylum - Ending #1”
The conclusion, such as it is, is also drawn out and ponderous beyond need. A single line by DiCaprio's character adds an interesting note to the very final moments, but beyond that it is simply a relief to finally reach the conclusion.
DiCaprio's acting is functional, but a little forced, Ruffalo plays his part well enough, and Ben Kingsley (playing one of the head doctors) turns in a performance that, depending how you view it, could be seen as quirky or camp. Meanwhile the ever-reliable Max Von Sydow (Playing another doctor) is sorely underused.
From an artistic perspective, it would be very easy to become blind to Shutter Island's faults, and convince oneself that it is an interesting work of art. However, if one stands away and judges it objectively, you quickly realise that it is simply a predictable and drawn out mediocre thriller with a polished sheen.