Monday, February 22, 2010

Shutter Island (2010)

Really nifty, haunting tale that zigzags wonderfully until its original plot, involving two U.S. Marshals' search for a missing mental patient, becomes lost in the shuffle. Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo play the two marshals, who trek to Shutter Island, a high-security island habitat for murderous and violent criminals, in search of a missing woman who allegedly killed her children. Ben Kingsley and Max Von Sydow run the establishment, which requires the marshals to sacrifice their guns and, arguably, their freedom during the duration of their investigation. DiCaprio's reasons for being there are sheisty, as is his mental state, which is exacerbated by the surroundings of the island. All of this is pretense, and the movie takes its pulpy plot and juices the pulp out of it until it has reached Twilight Zone-level proportions of provocative parable. It is a joy to stare at Scorcese's German expressionism-influenced frames, looking at the fringes for some validation of what is real and what is imagined. The casting is brilliant, with recognizable faces peppering the film with very showy, big performances; Kingsley and Jackie Earle Haley, as a particularly mangled patient, are note-perfect in their sideshow roles. DiCaprio turns in a strong performance, second only to his in The Departed, but the nature of the character requires a great deal of introspection and internal conflict, so for the most part, we are left out of his interior character, but are still quite intrigued. Ruffalo is also typically likable, and Michelle Williams dominates her flashbacks as DiCaprio's departed wife. The dialogue is appropriately stylized and kitchy, and the pacing of the film, opening with the two leads' approach to the island, is perfect.

Highly Recommended to fans of Scorcese (all 8 of you out there), haunting cerebral thillers, and madhouse freakshows a la Freaks. This is a love it or hate it film, and I must say, I adore this side of Scorcese far more than his Departed/Gangs of New York side. This is more akin to Taxi Driver, and I'm very glad he found it in him to create a perfect portrait of insanity once more.

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