Cornwall reviewer Stuart McColl takes a trip to Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island, and finds things are not all they seem in the paranoia-inducing film
It’s 1954 and US Marshals Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) are dispatched to Shutter Island, home to Ashecliffe hospital for the criminally insane. Their goal is to investigate the disappearance of child murderer Rachel Solando, who has managed to apparently ‘vanish’ from out of her cell.
Shutter Island is Martin Scorsese’s valid attempt at raising a genre movie to a higher level. Adapted from a Dennis Lehane novel, in the hands of another director this could so easily have been another laborious piece filled with ghost girls and cheap scares. Instead, bit by bit, Scorsese takes apart the sanity of our protagonist and that of the audience. There are brief flirtations with the ‘haunted house’ sub-genre, but this is more The Shining than it is The Amityville Horror.
A pounding classical score accompanies our arrival on the island, which creates a deeply foreboding atmosphere from the start. Add to this the apprehensive nature of the guards and we know that something is already amiss, as does Teddy.
Help isn’t exactly forthcoming among the hospital’s staff. Dr Cawley (Sir Ben Kingsley) is distinctly reluctant to offer his services to the two US Marshals, to Teddy’s displeasure. He senses that there’s more to the situation than at first glance, and he’s right. Or is this a creeping paranoia brought on by bad dreams involving his deceased wife and flashbacks to his wartime excursions?
The film’s lakeside scene is beautifully shot and provides a traumatising interlude between the twists and turns that bookend it. And the final twist could leave you with a sense that nothing quite fits together in the end. To look back and piece things together logistically from the beginning would be the easy option. But the beauty of Shutter Island is that we all walk away from it asking questions -including Teddy.