Martin Scorsese takes a break from directing movies about corrupt cops, aspiring gangsters, and the crime bosses that are the epicenter of most of his films and went ahead and adapted Shutter Island into the big screen, a novel originally written by Dennis Lehane. The film’s trailer makes it seem that Scorsese and his latest “franchise player” of the last 10 years, Leonardo DiCaprio, are teaming up to release a horror or perhaps a hack-n-slash film. No matter what the trailer was trying to sell us, let’s face it, we as movie-goers would have supported this film because it is Scorsese and DiCaprio after all. Lucky for us, this didn’t turn out to be a horror film, rather a mystery/suspense/thriller about two U.S. Marshalls who are sent to investigate the disappearance of a murderess from an isolated, prison island for the criminally insane (cue Slayer).
The acting is solid at worst as every character in this film is memorable. That’s the greatness of Scorsese’s work whose attention to character detail is second to none. The best character of this film is without a doubt the protagonist being portrayed by DiCaprio as he fights the prison—err, hospital--and its red tape, his violent past, and his mind to maintain his sanity while staying in this insane asylum.
The film’s plot itself takes you through so many twists and turns that, as often is the case for the genre’s viewers, you’d think you were part of a roller coaster. Arguably the film’s biggest achievement is making the audience believe that they’re part of the prison-hospital, either as part of the staff or as one of the prisoners/patients. It sometimes felt as if the author was playing a video game. The viewer can only succumb to the feeling that they are being put in DiCaprio’s shoes as he navigates through the crazy world that Scorsese put him in.
The problem, and it’s a big problem, is the fact that this film is so full of clichés apropos to this genre of films. It doesn’t feel like the original, film-watching experience one would get from watching a Scorsese film. Rather it feels as if one is watching a summary of all the tricks one would expect of the suspense genre of the last 10 years. It was like watching an episode of Adult Swim’s Robot Chicken and having M. Night Shyamalan reminding the audience about the “the twist” of the film that will predictably come near the end. When the aforementioned twist finally arrives, it doesn’t feel like the film has reached its climax, rather it has reached its punchline.
As many more critics have mentioned before, this film literally leaves you guessing throughout its entirety, however, despite the film’s unpredictable story, the film’s structure is very predictable and plays like a standard checklist for the suspense genre.