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Shutter Island (2010)

by on 2011/11/07

“You act like insanity is catching.”

* * *

I am a pretty trusting person. I want to believe the best about people. Even when there’s all kinds of evidence to the contrary, it takes me a really long time to give up on believing in someone.

But when I do, it is done.

Shutter Island is an exercise in trust. A really long one. During the 138-minute runtime, you follow this nice, sympathetic – ok, maybe just somewhat interesting – guy named Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) around.

He’s a U.S. Marshall investigating the case of a missing patient from an institution for the criminally insane. On a remote island in the Boston Harbour, Teddy’s on the case with an affable new partner named Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo).

The setting is ominous. Actually, that’s a complete understatement. Shutter Island and the Ashecliffe Institution it houses is absolutely terrifying. The pristine grounds  are tended to by shackled patients wielding garden shears. The doctors played by Ben Kingsley (Species) and Max Von Sydow (Strange Brew) aren’t any more comforting.

The surrounding forests and craggy beaches are wild and dangerous. Things are made more gothically terrifying by a wrath of god hurricane pounding on the island. Sheeting rain pervades every inch of this already gloomy place, the roof leaks, the floors flood. Things go from merely insane to sodden wet, shrieking insane.

While all of this is happening, your eyes play tricks on you. You are startled by sudden, unsettling sounds. There are grating, off-putting errors in continuity. Characters know things they shouldn’t. Dialogue seems wrong. Very little makes sense.

It is a haunted asylum fun house, lovingly hand-crafted by the master Martin Scorsee.

While the setting and its carefully constructed trappings are scary, our hero and guide is even more unsettling. He’s like the carnie running the haunted house ride who tells you everything’s going to be fine but then you notice his missing fingers.

Every minute that you spend with Teddy things get weirder, more complicated, less clear. He is visited by his dead wife Dolores (Michelle Williams). Then there’s a parade of folks – real or imagined –  telling Teddy what to do and where to go.

Shutter Island leaves you feeling like there’s no one you can trust. In fact, I will go so far as to say, you’ll feel just a little betrayed as well.

But maybe it is just me.

* * *

138 minutes

Rated R for disturbing, disturbing, disturbing violent content, language and some nudity

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