Thoughts on 'Shutter Island' . . .

Posted by 2 Dollar Productions Monday, February 22, 2010

Worth Full-Price, Matinee or Rental: 'Shutter Island' is a solidly entertaining project, but even with Martin Scorcese at the helm and a 2 hr. 15 minute running time, it is still not strong enough to justify paying for a full price ticket.

Will I Own It On DVD: No. I might watch it one more time, but that shouldn't translate into a purchase.

Overrall Grade: B-

1) 'Shutter Island' is a twisty, atmospheric thriller that relies on trap-doors and narrative confusion to keep viewers guessing until its conclusion. Consequently, your enjoyment of this 'Island' relies heavily on how involved you become in the labryinth as it unspools and becomes increasingly dense.

2) The movie is set in the 1950s, and the action takes place amost entirely at a heavily-guarded mental institution, an island rehabilitation center filled with violent inmates and a menacing staff led by Ben Kingsley. Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo play federal marshalls assigned to the island to investigate the disappearance of a female inmate. But that skeletal starting point is merely the beginning as DiCaprio's quickly becomes ensnared by his own conflicted motivations for taking the case as he struggles to solve the mystery while also finding a way off the island.

3) The creepy, isolated island setting is probably the strongest element of the film. Scorcese uses the remote location along with the disturbing treatment facilities to instill a distinct sense of paranoia and claustrophia to the proceedings. When a hurricane blows into the island, the situation only becomes more threatening.

Scorcese is far less succesful on land, however, as 'Island' makes frequent use of flashbacks and dream sequences, neither of which I found to be overly compelling. They felt overstylized and never delivered the intendeded impact, at least not for me.

4) DiCaprio does an admirable job in the lead investigative role. He holds multiple plot threads together with his performance, and I found it interesting that DiCaprio finally looks old enough onscreen to be playing adults. For years, he's been taking on adult characters while still looking boyish thanks to his features, but in 'Island,' he finally looks his age, which will probably be a good thing for his career moving forward even though this form appears to be a bit bloated from what looks like not enough physical activity.

The supporting cast is uniformly excellent with nice turns from Kingsley and Ruffalo as well as veteran actor Max Von Shadow.

5) I really wanted to like 'Island' more than I did. I'm a fan of Scorcese and twisted plots, but it's never a good thing when you find yourself becoming less involved as the film reveals its intentions, and that's how I found myself acting towards the conclusion.

Regardless, 'Island' delivers some distinct chills, features uniformly capable acting and many people will likely be more taken in by the plot than I was as evidenced by the film's 40 million dollar opening weekend.


{Editor's Note: Anyone who has already seen this movie - please don't leave any spoilers in the comments section. Thanks.}


  1. JLee Says:
  2. That's a bit disappointing since I was really looking forward to this one. I love creepy asylum movies! I will probably just rent it then. I finally watched "Hurt Locker" over the weekend. Great stuff.

  3. Jlee - Don't get me wrong, it's not a waste of time, and really, there's nothing else out there to see, so a matinee is pretty good for 'Shutter Island.' My expecations were just too high. Finally, saw 'Locker' this weekend too & it was very good indeed.

  4. Heff Says:
  5. "I found it interesting that DiCaprio finally looks old enough onscreen to be playing adults."

    That's been my problem with him for YEARS.

  6. Linda Says:
  7. I felt the same as you on this one. I'd like to see it again, knowing the ending. Though you are led most of the way, there are a few character's scenes I'd like to see again. Wasn't nearly as creepy as the trailers led us to believe. Good review.

  8. Heff - I know, right? Even when he was doing a good acting job it was still distracting - at least for me. It's starting to even out . . .

    Linda - Exactly. I thought from the previews it would be creepier, and unlike a lot of movies, I wish them one had a more straight-forward narrative that I think could have built even more suspense/tension. I think. Trailers were great though . . . Ha.

  9. BostonPobble Says:
  10. I think it is easy to get really high expectations when you combine Scorcese, DiCaprio (who does his best work with Scorcese), and a creepy asylum movie. At least, it's easy for me to end up with high expectations there. Anyway, having read other reviews along these lines, I will probably thoroughly be able to enjoy it now, instead of being let down when it didn't measure up to expectations.

  11. Boxer Says:
  12. Mr. Boxer wants to see and I was skeptical, but after your review I'll give it a go. I just need to see CRAZY HEART before the Oscars.

  13. I'll be seeing this one this weekend. I'll let you know if I agree. But I can say that I haven't looked forward to a movie in a while, the way I'm looking forward to this one.

  14. Gypsy Says:
  15. This movie really got me in after seeing the trailers and I for one am glad it isn't as creepy as it would appear. I'm such a chicken in scary movies.

    Great review and I also agree about Leonardo's youthful looks.

  16. Miss Ash Says:
  17. I'm going to see this one for sure! Matinee might be best as it will be daylight when I leave the theatre and therefore less scary!

  18. Bostonpobble - That's exactly what I was trying to do - deflate some of those expectations becuase I had them too. :) But it's still a worthwhile movie to catch, especially since nothing else is out right now.

    Boxer - Go see 'Crazy Heart' and the go catch 'Island.' 'Heart' is a good movie with a great performance from Bridges. But 'Island' is worth a look too . . .

    Kymical Reactions - Be careful then . . . Ha. Like I said, other people might be far more satisfied w/ the twists and turns than I was. It's worth seeing, so enjoy and I'll be curious about yr. opinion.

    Gypsy - I know - the previews really made this one look creepy. Great job from the marketing team. I didn't think it was quite so scary in person, but still some definite shocks.

    Miss Ash - Enjoy it and it will make you jump here and there, but it's not quite as creepy/scary as the previews would suggest. I saw it at 10 am, so there was plenty of light outside . . .


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