Shutter Island

Shutter Island (film)Image via Wikipedia
Here's the thing about Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island: it may be utterly predictable, but the storyline that can only really end one way is delivered in such a way that it successfully makes you second guess your predictions.

I can't really say much about the movie without going into spoilers, but I can tell you that it is beautifully shot, brilliantly conceived and very well performed. The way this movie is edited completely enhances the sense of paranoia and insanity that is supposed to be rampant at this mental hospital for the criminally insane.

But there's also a part of this movie that is a little more mundane, a little more typical, a little less great. On one hand, you have a movie that is beautiful, riveting, mysterious and magnetic. On the other hand you have a subject matter; insanity, conspiracy, multiple personalities; that is done to death in Hollywood, and usually done completely separate from actual scientific studies of these psychiatric cases.

Leonardo DiCaprio is brought to Shutter Island as a federal marshal to investigate the escape and disappearance of one of the patients. When he gets there, he finds the staff to be defiant and secretive. He suspects a conspiracy among all the nurses and doctors to cover up human experimentation on the mind.

I've given DiCaprio some flack in the past, and I was ambivalent to see him in this role, but I have to admit he was really, really good. It was, in part, because of his performance that I believed the ending might be different than I suspected. It wasn't different, but he made be believe it. And that's the signature of a great actor: to make you believe a lie.

Alright, I'm really stretching this thin now. I can't say anything else without spoiling it. So hit the Spoiler button for more!

Comments

  1. Maggie_S_Farm11/12/12, 5:38 PM

    MORE SPOILER ALERT FOR THIS COMMENT!! I just saw it tonight and I must say, I was surprised at how obvious it was that he was going to end up as the insane one. So obvious, that I thought at the end the twist would be that he wasn't! I thought that twist would never come until that very last line that you mentioned; "To live as a monster or die a good man". One way to interpret it is that he was sane all along, there really was a conspiracy against him and, with drugs and brain washing, they filled his head with those ideas that he had three kids that were killed by his wife. Then at the end, maybe he admitted to all of it so he could be set free but they said, "oh well, you've admitted it but it doesn't matter because you keep on resetting so there's pretty much no hope no matter what you do". So in the end, he decides to "die as a good man" by making Dr Shahan believe that he is insane by saying "Chuck, I dunno about this island, I think there's bad things happening here...", just so he could die (or be made brain dead) and not have to live with them pumping drugs into him and feeding him bullshit. I mean, he did say that line very calmly, knowingly and sanely. Of course MY interpretation has holes (ie. those anagrams) but at least its something to think about.

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  2. Good thoughts. It does have holes, but the very fact that you're thinking about it after the fact speaks to the movie's success. THAT'S what really does it for me. A movie that can get you thinking is a movie that deserves accolades.

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