Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Shutter Island

"There's nothing I look forward to with greater pleasure Mr. Grady."

A U.S. Marshal, sent to investigate a disappearance at a maximum security mental hospital in 1954, soon admits that he and his partner are looking for much more.

Every once in a while I come across a movie where, when someone asks me about it, the only thing I'm willing to say is: "Go see it." Shutter Island is the newest addition to that list. Unfortunately, giving that response alone would make for a pretty disappointing review. So I'm going to do my best to expand on that sentiment. But know that in the end that's all I'm really thinking.
Visually, it is one of the most affecting movies I've seen in months. The imagery is just that striking; the colors that vivid. The cinematography, under the direction of Robert Richardson, is so profound that I feel as though I could come close to having as emotional an experience just looking at stills. And believe me, it is a thoroughly emotional experience.
Shutter Island is a movie about what people are capable of when pushed to the mental brink. It is a theme expertly hammered home; one that cuts deep and refuses to relent. I have heard it called "scary". This isn't the word I'd use. It is certainly a thriller, there's no question of that, but in the place of the word "scary" I would use the word "disturbing".
What's the difference? For me, scary is easy. All you have to do scare me is try. You could, off the top of my head, wait in the hallway bathroom of a condo that you already know I think is creepy and jump out at me when I pass by... Sure, that would scare me. We'd both have a good laugh and that would be that. But to disturb me, you have to have more than just access. You have to get into my head. Get me emotionally involved. Then, you show me something that I just can't wrap my mind around. Do that, and you've got more than a cheap thrill. You've got something that's going to stick with me. Something we're going to be discussing an hour later. That's disturbing.
Stanley Kubrick did it with The Shining. David Fincher did it with Se7en. Now Martin Scorcese has done it again.
And with him yet again - in a cinema duo that critically can't miss it seems- is Leonardo Dicaprio. He rules the roost as the haunted Teddy Daniels, paired perfectly with the haunting Michelle Williams as Dolores (who I will say again is a criminally under appreciated actress in the main-stream). Even if the supporting cast weren't phenomenal - which they are- these two could have carried this movie all on their own. Their chemistry (for lack of a better word) is often palpable, even in their separate scenes.
If I have one complaint, it's that there are moments where the films score feels a bit overwhelming. I say this with the distinct feeling that this may have been a purposeful act however. And even if it not, it's a forgivable error. It would take a lot more than loud music to kill this experience.
Shutter Island is a movie I would recommend to anyone old enough to buy a ticket. It is a fervid, deftly paced journey through disturbed minds. It will rarely resort to simple pop outs to make you jump- but it will gladly make you cry, make you cringe, and make you talk it over as soon as the lights come up. Go see it.

Reel Deal Recommends:
The Departed: Another kind of spectacular from Director Scorcese with Dicaprio as lead.
Brokeback Mountain: A ho-hum movie with a spectacular performance from Williams
Snow Falling on Cedars: A visual feast with Richardson directing photography.

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