Home > Cinematically Correct, Movie Reviews, Movies, My Movie Reviews > “Shutter Island” Is Completely Without Shudders Of Any Kind

“Shutter Island” Is Completely Without Shudders Of Any Kind

Much more than someone is missing from "Shutter Island"...

After reading several reviews of “Shutter Island”, I’m left wondering how many of these critics are in the tank for Martin Scorsese. Not every critic loves the movie, but there are enough that truly like it for me to question their sanity. Having seen every movie that Scorsese has directed at least once, I can safely say that they only thing worse he has created is “Kundun”.

Simply put, “Shutter Island” bored me senseless. It is almost two and half hours of attempted scares, thrills, and creep outs. Not one of them really had me freaked out in the least. Actually, the scariest moment in the movie is on the poster to the right here and it involves a pack of matches. Yes, the act of lighting a match is the scariest thing in “Shutter Island”.

The saddest thing about this is that it’s obvious that Leonardo DiCaprio is trying really, really hard to make this movie work. It’s not really any fault of his that the credit card thin plot is dependent on the “shocker” ending that you can see coming after about the thirty minute mark. So go ahead and accuse me of being in the tank for DiCaprio because he is as good here as the plot is bad.

DiCaprio plays Teddy Daniels, a US Marshall sent to investigate a patient disappearance at the prison for the mentally insane on Shutter Island. His brand new partner, Chuck (a totally wasted Mark Ruffalo), is along for the ride and calls Teddy “boss”, even though Ruffalo has almost ten years on DiCaprio. Call me picky, but I simply couldn’t get past that fact.

Scorsese tries to liven the movie up and throws in several flashbacks to World War II for Teddy, which aren’t enlightening at all. In fact, I still don’t see the point of them. The flashbacks feel like Scorsese trying to impersonate David Lynch, which is a bad idea. As great as Scorsese is, nobody does surrealism like Lynch.

There are several notable actors in the movie, all playing cliched horror/suspense roles. You’ve got Ben Kingsley as the “not sure if he’s on the up and up” doctor, Max Von Sydow as the heavy accented, no doubt evil doctor in the white lab coat, Michelle Williams as the dead wife that says disturbing things in Teddy’s dreams, even the genius of Ted Levine is wasted as the ominous warden. Is this more the fault of the screenwriter’s adaptation of Dennis Lehane’s novel or Scorsese’s? It’s probably a bit of both.

There is one aspect of “Shutter Island” that I found more distracting above all else: the musical score. Within the first twenty minutes, your ears are hammered with bombastic piano chords, strings, and percussion. It’s as if the images of the creepy, gray prison island weren’t enough that they need to hammer home the scary images you are seeing with a “DUM DUM DUM!“-ish accompaniment. There is a moment when the gates to the prison are opening so slowly, with such dramatic sounding music, that my nerves were frayed due to annoyance, not dramatic tension.

There are some moments that generate some legitimate creeps. Not surprisingly, the best scene of the film involves DiCaprio, the aforementioned book of matches, and Jackie Earle Haley, who steals the movie in all of ten minutes worth of screen time. Even though it pretty much gives away the surprise ending of the movie, the scene with Patricia Clarkson and DiCaprio is also quite good.

The Keanu

There is a chance this movie is not as bad as I am making it sound. You can factor in my severe disappointment in a movie that I so badly wanted to see and from which I expected greatness. Since I consider myself somewhat of an amateur movie scholar, I didn’t find it enjoyable to watch an iconic, original filmmaker like Scorsese imitate Stanley Kubrick or Alfred Hitchcock. Maybe I’ll like it more the second time around? Although…I felt as if I had seen this movie a hundred times prior to the first viewing so I don’t see how that could change with another go round.

It’s a sad, sad day when a Scorsese/DiCaprio flick gets The Keanu.

  1. Outwardinsight
    February 24, 2010 at 6:16 PM

    I couldn’t disagree with you more… Obviously because you have such a strong reaction to this film you are going to ask me what movie I was watching but I’ll say it again, I couldn’t disagree with you more…

    From what you were saying, the movie was a let down… It didn’t scare you, It bored you, Jackie Earle Haley stole the film in a 10 minute appearance, the soundtrack annoyed you… and on and on and on…

    I’ll start by saying I went into the film with an open mind and didn’t expect it to be the best film ever made just because it was a project by Scorcese and DiCaprio so that could account for a portion of why we disagree. I’ll also say that the movie didn’t really scare me either, after all it was supposed to be a horror movie… it was supposed to be creepy, suspenseful, dramatic and I would say without question it puts a big fat check mark in each one of those categorical boxes. The movie engaged me throughout and I enjoyed how the movie was made from soundtrack (music and otherwise) to the visual elements. As far as Jackie Earle Haley stealing the show… there’s no question that he is a phenomenal actor, he was brilliant but he in no way shape or form “stole the show”. I’m not aware of people have been saying the acting is subpar but DiCaprio did very well and Ben Kingsley as always was fantastic to watch…

    Cliché as it may sound, everybody is intitled to their opinion and not everybody is going to like everything but I’ll left wondering what movie you were watching… Were you cut off on your way to the theater and stayed annoyed and pissed off for the rest of the duration of the movie?

    Now in the interest of fairness of the four people who saw the film with me, one didn’t seem to like it while the other three did so if there is just something about this film that will rub 3/4 people the wrong way… I’ll shrug and say whatever but I thought it was fantastic.

  2. koutchboom
    March 2, 2010 at 3:13 PM

    totally agree. Except with the Patricia Clarkson part, she’s normally the best part of a film and here she was probably the worst.

  3. March 18, 2010 at 8:20 PM

    kinda agree, kinda disagree: read jasperaalbers.wordpress.com

  4. Oli
    March 28, 2010 at 5:46 AM

    I beg you watch Shutter Island again, and try to approach it without the Scorsese auteur in mind. It came across, to me at least, that he was having an enormous amount of fun. This film is a tribute to those noirs and horrors Scorsese must have devoured in his youth, yet can stand alone as something else.
    The soundtrack was very obvious, but I didn’t find it annoying. Overall, it’s quite a hammy movie – and one must accept that when viewing, to take the twists and score as part of a nightmarish package.
    Outwardinsight makes a good point, that maybe Shutter Island is a marmite film. However, if you truly do love Scorsese, and cinema itself, give it another watch. It may hold up better on a DVD player at night time.

  5. Oli
    March 28, 2010 at 5:51 AM

    Oh, and I forgot to plug my own review of the film at http://ellipticaledits.wordpress.com/

    Check me out, and how smoothly I worked that in (apologies).

    • March 29, 2010 at 9:19 AM

      Hold on a second…a plug? That’ll be $75.

      Well okay. The first one’s free.

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