Shutter to think

Shutter Island

“Hey Leo, you look a little cranky. Wanna hear a knock-knock joke?”

“Hey Leo, you look a little cranky. Wanna hear a knock-knock joke?”

Rated 5.0

Director Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio triumph with Shutter Island, a true spellbinder from one of the greatest living directors. Scorsese manages to keep you off balance for the entire, mind-bending experience, while DiCaprio blasts the roof off the place with a gut-wrenching performance. Neither of them misses a beat, and the film will captivate those of you willing and wanting to be floored.

This is not a movie that just washes over you. It’s one of those great mysteries that require you to perk up and pay attention. Even if you guess what’s going on, Scorsese and DiCaprio make the ride well worth your time. There’s great joy in taking this journey on all levels, from technical to performance. The greatest aspect of watching a movie like this is not the answer to the mystery, but the way Scorsese and DiCaprio present every aspect of it.

The film opens in the ’50s, with a ferry emerging from thick fog. U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels (DiCaprio) is battling seasickness just prior to chatting with his new and concerned partner, Chuck (the ever-reliable Mark Ruffalo). They are on their way to Shutter Island, home of Ashecliffe Hospital for the criminally insane. A mother who killed her children has escaped from her cell, just one of many mysteries on the island that Teddy wants to investigate.

Nothing on the island seems right. A destructive storm coincides with Teddy’s malevolent migraines. The shady Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley, doing his best work in many years) seems to think he can dictate all aspects of the criminal investigation. One of his colleagues, the German Dr. Naehring (Max von Sydow) jump-starts Teddy’s horrible memories of liberating a concentration camp during WWII. Teddy’s dreams and remembrances all start streaming together until it’s hard to distinguish what’s subconscious and what’s reality.

And that’s just the way Scorsese wants it. Nice and screwy.

This is definitely a movie to see twice. All sorts of clues and tricks are dropped along the way, and it’s almost impossible to catch them all in one viewing. Things that might strike you as continuity or editing errors are actually quite intentional. It all makes sense in the end.

I’ll say it now: Let’s not forget what DiCaprio does here come year’s end. The actor just keeps getting better and better with each film, and this is work comparable to his career best in 2008’s Revolutionary Road. Scorsese deserves recognition, as well. Apart from being a great mystery, this is one of the better-looking movies he’s ever made. The performances he draws out of DiCaprio and the cast are all first rate.

Ruffalo, Kingsley, Von Sydow and Michelle Williams, in a small role as Teddy’s wife, all shine. Patricia Clarkson shows up for five minutes and scorches the Earth. Jackie Earle Haley, John Carroll Lynch, and Ted Levine (The Silence of the Lambs’ Buffalo Bill) all make creepy and sinister contributions.

Those of you who have read the Dennis Lehane novel this is based on should have no problem with Scorsese’s take. He’s quite faithful to tone and plot, and his additions only supplement the story rather than take away. If anything, Scorsese’s film has a little more adrenaline.

The story wraps up with something so devastating you actually fear for DiCaprio’s real-life mental health. The actor just puts it all up there for the world to see.

There’s talk of a new De Niro/Scorsese collaboration on the way. I would love to see something that joined De Niro, Scorsese and DiCaprio together in one big movie-master party. One thing’s for sure: Scorsese shows no signs of slowing down. He’s truly on his game, and Shutter Island is not an example of a great director simply repeating himself. He’s stretching his wings.