‘Shutter.’ To think.

Where you stand with the latest Martin Scorsese film “Shutter Island” will largely depend on what you make of its ending.

Having not read the Dennis Lehane book on which it is based (the author of “Mystic River” and “Gone Baby Gone,” as well as a contributor to the series “The Wire”), I cannot use that as a point of reference for the director’s actual intent.

So I will merely draw my own conclusion of its meaning and use that to throw my support behind the film, and I will fight any of my friends who dare say otherwise.

Scorsese uses his modern-day muse Leonrado Di Caprio to play U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels, sent to a remote island serving as a penitentiary for the criminally insane. There to investigate the escape of a murderess, Teddy finds himself teamed with a new partner, Chuck Aule (played by Mark Ruffalo) and at odds with the staff who seems to be holding deep secrets in its holding facility, which consists of three separate areas based on the sex and ferocity of the inmates.

An impeding hurricane does nothing to ease the investigation, as it impedes their plans to leave, cuts off power and sends the whole sliver of land into chaos. This being a top-tier film, you can be assured that this literal storm is working as well on a metaphoric level on its protagonist. For Teddy is a man who has a past steeped in violence – from his war-scarred days as a soldier, to the tragic early loss of his wife.

Pitted against a cagey chief psychiatrist (played by Ben Kingsley) and a confrontational warden (played by Ted Levine), Teddy resorts to some rather drastic measures to find answers to his questions, even if they,in turn,lead to more questions. We learn information as Teddy does, but we also become privy to his story as well, in which we are asked to simultaneously piece together two puzzles. It’s not as complex as it sounds, and Scorsese’s fills the screen to its edges with plenty to occupy the senses.

And while the film’s conclusion can lead to debate, there can be no argument as to the overall feeling that you are in the hands of a man who is in love with the language of film. Cinematography, staging, set design and camera placement are all calculated with precision by the master helmsman.

As accomplished an actor as DiCaprio is, it’s easy to envision a younger DeNiro ripping right into this role and possibly walking away with a statuette to show for it. DiCaprio is intense, but a little too pretty to be the grizzled, haunted lead needed for added authenticity. The other actors are dutifully engaging, but break no range they have not previously demonstrated.

Now, onto the ending. I am not about to divulge the hallucinatory half hour, and the film concludes with an amount of certainty as to what will happen next to leave the casual filmgoer satisfied. I am a sap for endings that twist what I’ve just witnessed and summon a repeat viewing (I will here give a shout-out for a much smaller film called “Triangle” just released on DVD that reimagines “Groundhog Day” as a hellish vacation nightmare). But I don’t like to feel duped, as though I have just witnessed someone’s dream and they return to life as normal by the conclusion. And that is why I air on the side of the former, as Scorsese is far too seasoned to sucker punch us with such tomfoolery.

And while “Shutter Island” may not rank among his best work, it is certainly more engaging and intimate than his stretches for epic storytelling, such as “The Aviator” and “Gangs of New York.”

For lovers of classic cinema, it certainly summons Hitcockian elements of structure and gloss that set it far above the best efforts in lesser hands.

~ by usesoapfilm on February 22, 2010.

One Response to “‘Shutter.’ To think.”

  1. […] The rest is here: 'Shutter.' To think. « use soap film […]

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