Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island is a Frankensteinian stitch-job of genres. On one hand, it suggests classic Hollywood gothics like Gaslight, featuring Ingrid Bergman as a newlywed whose rotten husband has convinced her she’s mad. In its cheesier moments, Shutter Island recalls the hysterical psychiatric potboiler Jacob’s Ladder with its tortured wretches and gooey set design. But while the classic Hollywood flicks that film connoisseur Scorsese so dearly loves usually end on an upbeat note, the celebrated director has a more contemporary core. Scorsese’s work has always had a vein of skepticism about a world founded on happy endings. While the gothic thriller Shutter Island is, from a genre point of view, a bit of a departure for the crime-film crazed Scorsese, it is in keeping with his defining sensibility. And that sensibility in a nutshell is this: the world is full of cheats and murderers and the best policy is to watch your back. Whether Shutter Island works for viewers will depend on their tolerance for films they know are toying with them, and their willingness to wait to see what mind games, exactly, are being played. Unfortunately, Shutter Island is somewhat hobbled by our sense that Scorsese is slumming in the schlock-fest thriller genre. We’ve come to expect greater artfulness, tighter pacing, and more memorable characters from Scorsese.
Director: Martin Scorsese
Writer: Dennis Lehane and Laeta Kalogridis
Producer: Mike Medavoy, Arnold W. Messer, Bradley J. Fischer and Martin Scorsese
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Michelle Williams and Max Von Sydow