Shutter Island Review

Subtle hints to the truth and disorienting drug-induced dream scenes fill the two hours and 18 minutes of the film “Shutter Island.”

I finished reading “Shutter Island,” the novel by Dennis Lehane that the film was based on, days before the movie’s original October release date. The original release date was pushed back due to struggles with the economy. Since then, hype grew as I waited until Feb. 19 to see the movie. 

The novel is a thrilling and thought-provoking read.  The plot made my mind spin, and the end revealed horror and empathy for the prisoners of the hospital.  Even when I thought I had the end figured out, I realized my assumptions were only a small part of the complicated conclusion.

The film does not disappoint.  As much as reading a novel can put the reader in a new world, the movie does an excellent job of letting the viewer fully experience Ashecliff Hospital for the Criminally Insane.

Ashecliff is located on a secluded island off the coast of Massachusetts, where the only way out is by ferry.  The prison consists of three wards – Ward A and B are separated for men and women patients, and Ward C is an old Civil War fort where only the most dangerous patients are hidden away.  Also located on the island is a mysterious and questionable lighthouse.

Set in the year 1954, US Marshal Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) travels to the island to investigate a missing patient at the prison, where he finds himself questioning sanity.

Trouble grows as a hurricane engulfs the island and Daniels finds there is no escape from the horror.  It cannot even be avoided in his sleep.  Daniels’ dream sequences are the most effective scenes in the film that make the audience shudder with disorientation. His mind searches for the best way to protect him.

Daniels’ flashbacks to fighting in World War II, and reminiscence of Nazi behaviors, seem to bring out the questionable treatments of patients at Ashecliffe.

A cast of dynamic actors filling roles that were in no way typecast, only adds to the overall serious tone of the movie.

DiCaprio’s skill in transforming himself shows his ability to make the audience forget he is an actor and believe he is Teddy Daniels.

Mark Ruffalo plays Daniels’ partner, Chuck Aule, who does an excellent job of cautiously supporting Daniels throughout the story.  Ruffalo’s talent of acting as a somewhat awkward US Marshal proves true to his ultimate roll in the film.

The almost two and a half hours of film, is not excessive.  The few scenes toward the end, where the viewer comes closer to the truth, would have kept me in suspense had I not read these scenes in the novel.

The movie faithfully follows the novel, making this one of the best novel-to-movie films I have seen.

The film captures the novel’s overall essence of Ashecliff’s history and of how Daniels’ mind works.  Although some details are left out, the movie does not lack surreal sadness, horror, and disorientation.

“Shutter Island” is a true horror film comparable to the tragedy felt in watching the movie based on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (the 1994 film starring Kenneth Branagh, Robert De Niro, and Helena Bohnam Carter).

Especially if you aren’t going to read “Shutter Island,” see the movie more than once.  This movie can provide multiple experiences because of the knowledge gained in the end.  Martin Scorsese directed this complex film thoroughly, making it a valuable film to see multiple times.

It’s nightmarish tone left me feeling a little unstable and paranoid myself, while also feeling satisfied with the film’s quality.  The film forces audiences to experience the painful tragedy of being criminally insane.

If you can’t feel the pain of Ashecliff’s patients by the end of this film, you might want to question your own sanity.