As this is yet another in my ongoing series of delayed film reviews, this will undoubtedly have some spoilers happening. I won’t give it away, but consider yourself warned. So what’s up on Shutter Island?
Director Martin Scorsese is usually a solid bet. His films range in topics and tones, but the work is always fascinating. He has a catalog of great films that attest to his ingenuity, his daring, and his visionary scope as a film maker. Sadly, he employs none of these abilities to Shutter Island.
I expected the film to follow a path of dead ends, deceptions, and red herrings. Just as I was willing to fore go my general disbelief and ride the formulas with abandon. But the whole thing is so labor intensive, so stacked with exposition and explanation, so spelled and re spelled out to the audience that I could barely keep my attention on it for the excruciating two and a half hour run time.
We begin on a boat, emerging from mist, where Leo Dicaprio is giving us his best seasick impersonation. He steps on deck with his new partner Mark Ruffalo. In a bland one shot, we get all the details necessary to voyage to Shutter Island with them. Why these two Federal Marshells are only now introducing themselves is quickly forgotten as they arrive on the island, tasked with finding an escaped mental patient.
Obviously enough, everyone is acting strange. Well, it is a loony bin after all, but things just don’t add up. Combine this with Leo’s increasingly trippy dream sequences and you have a taught and engaging psychlogical thriller, right?
Sorry, folks. For some reason, Scorsese prefers taking the long road on this one. The very long road. The film is a mish mash of pointless scenes, clues that go nowhere, never to be explained, and characters that show up for the briefest of flashes, also rarely making an ounce of sense and leaving almost immediately, never to be interrogated again. Honestly, I failed to see how most of this movie was driving the plot forward. There are a few particularly painful moments when info is apparently being delivered, but in such a dull and ultimately forgettable way that it’s rendered useless after the climactic reveal, which itself actually reveals very little that we did not already conclude ourselves.
Most infuriatingly, Scorsese insists on filling this movie with more cliches than you can shake a stick at. I mean, seriously, if I never watch a man scream “NOOOOO” into the sky again, it will be too soon. There’s a lot of raised eyebrows and the inevitable, “what’s with the raised eyebrows?” talk going on. There’s a terribly overstated musical score. There’s spooky yet unrealistic lighting and the cheap scare of things that jump out from the dark, mostly mental patients.
And then there’s Leo’s accent. Yes, he’s playing another Bostonian, just like in The Departed. And yes, there’s a lot left to be desired. I’m sorry, but I have never seen Leo perform a convincing accent, be it Gangs of New York Irish, or Blood Diamond South African. It’s just not his specialty. I have seen Leo do a much better job before, though. In fact, everyone involved in the film has done extraordinary work before, they just didn’t get a chance to bring their A-game today. And ultimately that’s Scorsese’s failure. He is supposed to, if nothing else, make sure every other genius in the room is at full volume.
All in all, I was sorely disappointed in this film, but others I know were delightfully surprised. Maybe my Scorsese expectations are too high. After all, the man has made some of his best work in the last decade, and I’ve already forgiven this brief rough patch.
But, Marty. Please, please, please try to cast someone else as the lead in your next film. Please. The whole you and Leo partnership is starting to go stale. Maybe it’s time for a change. I blame the comfort zone you’re operating in more than you personally. Try something radical, try something unprecedented. You can do it, they’ll let you get away with anything. You need to embrace that kind of freedom and stop wasting it on remakes and adaptations of already popular works. Please.