Shutter Island is reminiscent of classic film noir with it’s investigation plot line and hard-boiled detective lead, but contains enough plot twists and turns to keep today’s audiences enthralled with its mental gymnastics. The psychological thriller also serves as proof that Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio are a winning team.
Set in 1954, the film tells the story of U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels (DiCaprio) and his partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) as they investigate the case of escaped inmate Rachel Solando, a multiple murderess, at the Shutter Island mental hospital for the criminally insane. As the story unfolds, Daniels, a sharp and observant investigator, grows suspicious of the doctors at the institution and discovers that nothing is as it seems. As a hurricane bears down on the island, twists involving barbaric experiments and sinister surgeries come to light and Daniels learns he must delve into his own troubled past and traumatic memories to figure out the truth.
DiCaprio has been regarded as one of the seminal actors of his generation and, after seeing his performance in Shutter Island, it’s not hard to see why. He has such control over emotion and facial expression that he can speak volumes without actually uttering a single line. The furrowed-brow intensity he uses in every film always seems to fit, weather it’s William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet, The Departed, or Blood Diamond. His face always reads well and he’s able to convey so much through his eyes. Here, he makes the audience identify with Daniels so deeply that we begin to grow equally paranoid and suspicious as he uncovers more of the tangled web.
Most of DiCaprio’s best performances have come under the direction of Scorsese, whose knowledge and respect for film has translated into some of the best movies of the past several decades. Here he takes the moral ambiguity and unfolding mystery of classic noir films from the 1940s and mixes them with the kind of amped up complexity missing from many of today’s mainstream blockbusters. Quick glimpses into Daniels’ past during WWII and dreams about his deceased wife are just enough to keep audiences intrigued without giving away too much. Nonverbal exchanges between characters build up the mystery. As the plot turns darker, the scenes reflect that theme, feeling more claustrophobic and foreboding.
The film is adapted from the novel of the same name by Dennis Lehane, author of Mystic River and Gone, Baby, Gone among other works. Lehane’s writing contains complex and fascinating plots with moral ambiguity and mystery. With Shutter Island, Scorsese and DiCaprio maintain the intensity needed for this type of story.
Shutter Island is sure to keep audiences enthralled with a mystery that will fascinate even those who have read the book. This psychological thriller is a rewarding change of pace from the simplistic story lines of the average movie today and solidifies the dynamic duo of Scorsese and DiCaprio.