“Shutter Island” Is Completely Without Shudders Of Any Kind
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.
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.