Sunday, 26 September 2010


Based on Dennis Lehane's novel, Shutter Island follows two US marshalls who are dispatched to Ashcliffe Hospital; an institute for the criminally insane, which is located on a remote island. Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) are charged with the task of investigating the disappearance of one Rachel Solano (Emily Mortimer) who vanished from her cell some 24 hours earlier. Solano - incarcerated for drowning her three children - left no clues as to her whereabouts, save for a cryptic message found by Daniels. Before long, our intrepid duo encounter solid opposition from the medical wing of the institute, as Dr John Cauley (Ben Kingsley) and Dr Jeremiah Naering (Max Von Sydow) refuse access to documents which may contain fragments of evidence. Add to this Daniels' grief-stricken past and the use of psychotropic drugs on already unhinged patients, and the scene is set for a debilitating excursion into a world haunted by the past and fuelled by the present terrifying locale.

If Shutter Island is really a B-Movie with A-list ingredients, it succeeds on both levels, working as a loving homage to '40s/'50s noir cinema, and as a glowing testament to the skills of an exceptional cast and crew.
Here, DiCaprio excels with what may just be his best performance to date, battling the ghosts of his part in a World War II liberation of Dachu alongside unbearable personal loss, whilst Kingsley and Von Sydow present a formidable barrier to exactly what is going on in their institute.
For Martin Scorsese, this is territory that suits his directorial skills down to the ground, full of Hitchcockian sensibilities and - fittingly - a love not just of noir-ish nightmares, but also of the inky black horror from a genre he greatly admires. Indeed, Shutter Island is often reminiscent of Sam Fuller's Shock Corridor and Brad Anderson's bone-chilling Session 9, with less out-and-out shocks than the former, but perhaps a greater sense of depth and purpose.

By combining a series of flashbacks, hallucinations and real-time terror, Scorsese has fashioned one of his best films since that golden '70s period, and is even audacious enough to leave a liberal sprinkling of clues before our eyes and ears.
With a high replay value, Shutter Island will doubtless prompt many return trips, whether or not you believe the mystery has finally been solved. One major criticism relates to the secret becoming obvious far too early (a problem many of us encountered with the likes of THE SIXTH SENSE) but this should in no way impair your enjoyment of how they get there in the end.

The Blu-ray transfer looks impeccable, with a fine film of grain, deliciously inky blacks and colours verging from vibrant to subdued while always well rendered.
With just a couple of featurettes, we're infuriatingly light on the extras front and the inclusion of least a director's commentary track would have been a step in the right direction. I guess that will happen with the inevitable 'special edition'


  1. When I finally took this in, it was on the standard definition DVD. I thought it looked pretty damn good there, and would be spectacular in BD. Looks like I'll have to waited for the SE... I hate it when the studios go light on the extras for a film they know deserves more. The ol' double dip. Thanks, Steve.

  2. Thanks, Michael. I'm sure a special edition will be forthcoming but I'm with you on the double-dipping. Hate it when they do that.

  3. Yeah, with double-dipping, at least warn us ahead of time, like how guys like Guillermo del Toro lets his fans know ahead of time that a much better SE is coming down the pipe - saved me on $$ when he did that for HELLBOY.

  4. Good point, JD. Fincher did the same with Zodiac. These days, we need all the help we can get.

  5. I really want to see this film. I never saw it when it was out at the theater. I'll definitely have to check it out.

  6. Cheers, Keith. It really is well worth your time.