Tuesday, April 13, 2010

SHUTTER ISLAND - An Intense Thriller

SHUTTER ISLAND (psychological thriller)
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Michelle Williams, Max Von Sydow and Elias Koteas
Director: Martin Scorsese
Screenplay: Laeta Kalogridis, based on the novel by Dennis Lehane
Time: 137 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)

DiCaprio and Michele Williams in SHUTTER ISLAND

PREAMBLE: Martin Scorsese's interpretation of Dennis Lehane's thriller is not every moviegoer's cup of tea. It is certainly not a movie for the masses or for those who don't like to think about what's going on on the screen. However, for those who like being immersed in mental puzzles, Shutter Island provides an interesting diversion.

What you see is not what you get and one would enjoy it better watching it a second time.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? It is 1954. US Marshal Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) travels to an island asylum for the criminally insane with his new partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo). Daniels' mission is to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a murderess (Emily Mortimer as Rachel Solando) from her cell.

However, Daniels also wants to confront Andrew Laeddis (Elias Koteas), an imprisoned arsonist whom he believes was responsible for the death of his wife Dolores (Michelle Phillips). On the island, Daniels suspects that senior psychologists Cawley (Ben Kingsley) and Naehring (Max von Sydow) are involved in unethical experiments and a conspiracy to cover up the fate of Laeddis. Is he on track?

HITS & MISSES: Those who have read the book would be surprised to find how faithful Scorsese is to the narrative. Everything about the movie smacks of top-notch execution and delivery that leave us in suspense throughout most of the film. Almost all of Scorsese's sequences are made to provide the maximum effect - they are compelling, thought-provoking and even mind-boggling.

I have never thought much of DiCaprio's acting - until now. Taking over from Robert De Niro as Scorsese's favourite star, DiCaprio manages to get us rooting for him all the time, without being menacing like De Niro. It is a pity that Shutter Island was released States-side in February this year, instead of 2009 because DiCaprio would have been a shoo-in for an Oscar nomination. The supporting cast, especially Ruffalo, von Sydow and Kingsley, also throw in solid performances.

The one major complaint I have is that the movie is too long (at more than two hours), delving too much in repeated flashbacks.

THE LOWDOWN: Not Scorsese's best work but close to it.


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