Shutter Island, the new film by Oscar-winning director Martin Scorsese, is as much of a mind-bender as the characters who inhabit the mental asylum for the criminally insane. On my first viewing on Saturday, it was like me and the audience were going 12 rounds with a prized fighter at the top of his game. The movie pummels the viewer with vivid and graphic flashbacks of Teddy Daniel's (Leonardo DiCaprio) past, hidden motives from the head honcho, Dr. Cawley (the great Ben Kingsley), and a deadly hurricane which threatens to bring down the walls of Ashcliffe, both literally and figuratively.
Here's a tip: just let all the madness and dark poetry Scorsese paints sink in. For decades, Marty's used the criminal underworld and the mean streets of New York City and Boston, to name a few, as a blazing torch way into the darkening, haunted depths of the human soul. From the terrifying opening score composed by Robbie Richardson, to the ever superb editing of Scorsese's longtime partner Thelma Schoonmaker, Shutter Island is another triumph of gut-punching storytelling mixed with utter devotion to the filmmaking of old.
Teddy and his new partner, Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) are U.S. Marshals assigned to investigate the disappearance of one of Ashcliffe's patients, Rachel Solando. Once there, the pair quickly begin to realize that the truth behind the woman's disappearance is as elusive as she is. On Shutter Island, everyone has some demons - or secrets - buried within. Even Daniel's motives for taking on the case, are shrouded in mystery. That's all i'm telling you about Shutter Island, partially because there are certain parts from this head trip of a movie that I still don't understand. I will tell you that DiCaprio gives his most complex and devastating performance yet as Daniels, as he tries to connect the dots to the many mysteries on Shutter Island, before he loses his own sanity. I can tell you that Ben Kingsley plays Dr. Calwey with quiet menace that'll keep you guessing his agenda up until the end. And I can tell you that production designer Dante Ferrti and cinematographer Robert Richardson are magnificent in bringing to life this hellish mental facility.
In the end though, you don't have to figure everything out to realize that Scorsese's still at his best, even when the story twists, turns, and throws a twist that would shock M. Night Shyamalan himself. A great filmmaker and his talented cast will keep you enthralled every time.
***1/2 stars out of ****