MOVIE REVIEW: Shutter Island

February 25, 2010

by Amy Olita

Coming in first at the box office its first weekend in theaters earning $40.2 million, “Shutter Island,” the newest psychological thriller from Martin Scorsese, will not disappoint.

It is not a movie that makes you jump out of your seat, but rather keeps you on the edge of your seat the entire two hours and 18 minutes.

“Shutter Island” has all the psychological thrill of an Alfred Hitchcock film with subtle, yet symbolic, imagery, making it yet another success for the powerful Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio duo.

The film, set in 1954, begins with the main characters, U.S. Marshals Teddy Daniels and Chuck Aule, played by DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo respectively, as they ride the ferry across Boston Harbor toward their gloomy, rocky island destination.

There is an instant feeling of foreboding in the scene; there is something that is just not right.

The men, newly appointed partners, are traveling to Shutter Island, the location of Ashecliffe Hospital – a hospital for the criminally insane – to investigate the mysterious disappearance of Rachel Solando.

According to the officials at the hospital, Rachel drowned her three children and somehow escaped without shoes from a locked room on an island with extremely rocky terrain and with a hurricane crashing ashore.

Everything about the island is ominous and creepy, from the devastating storm to the mysterious Ward C, which houses the most dangerous patients, and the feeling is amplified by strategic sound effects, dulling the conversation and overlaying it with ominous orchestra tunes.

With each step the Marshals take to further their investigation, the more complications arise. Every question answered by inmates and orderlies alike seems to Teddy to be rehearsed. Even the head physician of the facility, Dr. Cawley, played by Ben Kingsley, is not much help to the Marshals’ investigation, refusing to allow them access to the patient files.

It is obvious to Teddy and Chuck that their investigation is at a dead end, until the chaos after the storm allows them the opportunity to explore the island alone and investigate Teddy’s suspicion of foul play at the facility.

However, as DiCaprio’s character becomes more and more entangled in the investigation of the asylum, he seems to be becoming part of the very thing he is investigating, having dreams and hallucinations of his wife Dolores, played by Michelle Williams, who died in a fire and also disturbing dreams about his experience as a soldier in World War II liberating Dachau.

Despite his wife telling him to leave and end his investigation, Teddy pushes on, striving to find proof of his conspiracy theory of experimental testing at the mental institution even while he struggles to maintain his own sanity.

As Teddy becomes more confused, the audience also becomes more confused. This film really messes with your head, leaving you wondering what the truth is even after the credits roll.