The basic premise: Teddy Daniels (DiCaprio) and Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) arrive on Shutter Island, an isolated mental hospital that used to be a Civil War fort, in order to track down an escaped, violent mental patient who vanished from a locked cell, “Vanished into thin air,” and leaving a cryptic message behind.
That’s where normalcy ends.
For the remainder of the movie, we’re not sure what is real or illusion, sane or insane. A violent hurricane beats the island, creating a perpetual dark and stormy night, which provides a Gothic atmosphere to the story. There is a good twist at the end, though I think I saw it coming a little earlier than necessary, but the very last 2 minutes provide ambiguity to the audience as to the main character’s fate.
As I watched, I felt like I watched an old Agatha Christie film adaptation, or a Hitchcockian psychological thriller, a nice reprieve in the midst of effects-filled epics like Avatar (bah)–not that effects are bad. It’s just nice to know that you don’t have to rely on them in order to make a film work.
This is not Scorsese’s best work, nor is it his worst. When you compare it to a masterpiece like The Departed, this does fall short, being a little slow at times. Still, I did like it better than the novel from which Scorsese adapted it by Dennis Lehane (who also authored Mystic River).
Not for teens. It’s rated-R for language and pretty disturbing images.