Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Premise: A pair of federal marshals (Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo) arrive at an asylum for the criminally insane to investigate the disappearance of a patient. As they begin their investigation, one of the marshals begins to suspect that there is more going on at the hospital.
What Works: Shutter Island is extremely well shot and edited together and the quality of the filmmaking craft evokes a very convincing atmosphere that keeps up the tension of story even when the mystery starts to unravel. The way the film incorporates flashbacks is very impressive and the story is nicely unified, bringing ideas about memory, identity, and institutional violence together in ways that are unexpected.
What Doesn’t: Shutter Island has a great opening but as the story moves on it becomes more and more strained. This story starts as a missing person case and then opens up to a story of corruption. While that transition works well, the plot pivots into new territory in the second half, discarding the story elements that preceded it. At this point the film lacks focus and it is unclear what the characters are actually trying to do or what this story is really supposed to be about. The picture tries for an M. Night Shyamalan-like twist on the ending but it actually undermines the entire film and Shutter Island finally collapses under the weight of its own incredulousness.
Bottom Line: Shutter Island is one of Martin Scorsese’s weaker films. It does have his telltale craftsmanship but the story takes too many twists and turns and doesn’t come together in the finale.
Episode: #278 (February 28, 2010)