05 March 2010

Review: "Shutter Island"

Last fall Shutter Island was listed alongside such films as Up in the Air, Avatar and Precious as one of the primary contenders for an Academy Award nomination. Set for release in October, Shutter Island was delayed until February 2010. The studio, Paramount Pictures, claimed that they were financially incapable of an Oscar campaign for Shutter Island. Many speculated that the film was a disappointment and Martin Scorsese was being punished with a February release. Martin Scorsese is one of the most renowned American directors, with his last three films (Gangs of New York, The Aviator and The Departed) all being nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. Let's not forget that he is also responsible for the masterpieces Taxi Driver (1976), Goodfellas (1990), and my personal favourite, Casino (1995). Shutter Island stars Martin Scorsese veteran Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley and Michelle Williams. The film, unfortunately, is one of the most disappointing films I have seen in recent memory. Awkward pacing, poor acting and irrelevant scenes makes Shutter Island a horrible mess unworthy of viewing.

Set in 1954, Leonardo DiCaprio stars as U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels. Along with his partner Chuck (Mark Ruffalo), he is investigating the disappearance of a patient at Ashecliff Hospital, on Shutter Island.
Ashecliff is a hospital for the criminally insane, and a woman named Rachel Solando is missing. The island is only accessible by ferry and both pairs of her shoes are found in her cell. The investigation is hampered by the chief psychiatrist (Ben Kingsley) and top physician (Max von Sydow) who are unwilling to cooperate, and Teddy is bothered by constant memories of his military service during World War II and the tragic death of his wife (Michelle Williams). A huge storm hits the island, leaving the hospital without electricity, and when the dust settles Rachel Solondo (Match Point's Emily Mortimer) is back in her cell. It is then revealed that Teddy took this particular investigation in order to confront the man who set fire to the building that killed his wife. The film then leads to a messy climax that uses far too many dream sequences. The film would have worked a lot better had the screenwriter, Laeta Kalogridis, focused on fewer details. It is hard to fault Martin Scorsese, but it seems that his longtime editor, Thelma Schoonmaker, has failed him. The film's editing is messy and so poorly paced that I was frustrated within the first twenty minutes.

Shutter Island features a considerably talented supporting cast. Patricia Clarkson, almost unrecognizable with dark hair, is superb in her small role, and Jackie Earle Haley (Best Supporting Actor nominee for Little Children) is chilling in a key role. I found it hard to enjoy the film from the very beginning. I really did not enjoy the opening sequence and found that it set the tone for the whole film. Leonardo DiCaprio was once able to depend on his boyish good looks, but I have found recently that his acting has suffered. I thought that Revolutionary Road was one of his weakest performances until now. Shutter Island is a film that had a lot of promise, but along the way it become a film that tried too hard to fool you and was too dependent on symbolism. Sure, the twist is very clever, but it would have been a lot more satisfying if I had cared when it was finally revealed.

My rating: 1.5 stars out of 4.

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