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Movie Review: Shutter Island

20/02/2010
Tonight we went to see Shutter Island, the new Scorsese film based on the book by Dennis Lehane. I haven’t read the book yet, but if the film is any indication then I think it’s a must.

Early trailers provided an enticing look into what is billed as a top-notch thriller, but for the first hour or so I’ll admit that I checked my watch more than once. Leonardo DiCaprio is excellent as U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels, but the exposition drags and the dialogue falls flat even with DiCaprio’s practiced Boston accent to punctuate his statements. Composer Robbie Robertson’s score is rife with bass chords and heavy strings that swell to heighten the viewer’s suspense but fail to deliver for a substantial portion of the movie. Scorsese is a master of the shot, however, and is faithful to a depiction of Ashecliffe as home to many secrets.

Fortunately, the action begins to pick up early into hour two and doesn’t stop until the end credits roll. There are significant, accurate references to early psychopharmacology and antiquated psychiatric practices such as psychosurgery that further increase the tension as Teddy continues his search for answers. The conclusion, while not entirely shocking, is moving and well presented.

The more I think about Shutter Island, the easier it is to justify the first hour I spent waiting for something to happen. The plot points are so carefully woven together that one is caught up in Ashecliffe and its secrets as deeply as Teddy. In order to comprehend the story you have to pay attention — definitely not the right choice for a “light” movie night — but even so it really takes a few hours after seeing it to fully understand what you’ve seen and how everything fits together.

I walked out of the cinema with more questions and theories than answers, and my original rating for this film was a B+: the acting is good but not Oscar-worthy, and the plot leaves you more than a little confused. However, having had the downtime after watching it to process and consider, I give Shutter Island a solid A and my firm recommendation.

Happy viewing!

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