Everything is Strange on Shutter Island

Carole McFaddan

It’s 1954 and United States marshal Teddy Daniels (Leonardo Dicaprio) and his new partner Chuck (Mark Ruffalo) are assigned to investigate the disappearance of a murdering patient from Boston’s Shutter Island, the location of Ashecliffe Hospital for the Criminally Insane. Although Teddy has been pushing for an assignment on the island for personal reasons, before long he begins to question if he has been brought there as part of a twisted plot by the government and hospital doctors for their unethical and illegal treatments. Teddy’s cunning investigative skills quickly provide a potential lead, but the hospital refuses him access to records that may break the case. As a hurricane cuts off mainland communication, more dangerous criminals escape in the confusion, perplexing and improbable clues multiply, and Teddy begins to doubt everything: his partner, his memories, and even his own sanity.

Shutter Island is Leonardo Dicaprio’s fourth and most intense collaboration with director Martin Scorsese, the previous three being Gangs of New York, The Aviator and The Departed.

Shutter Island is based off of Dennis Lehane’s 1954 novel and was adapted for film in 2009 by Scorsese with Alfred Hitchcock’s work of the mid-20th century in mind. The film stars DiCaprio, who is known for his roles in all genres, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Michelle Williams, Elias Koteas, Emily Mortimer, and Max von Sydow. Scorsese is of the “movie brat” generation – the first group of American filmmakers to have emerged from actual film education programs – and has continued directing well into his sixties quite successfully.

As Scorsese’s fourth consecutive collaboration with DiCaprio it seems their partnership defines Scorsese’s late period. Scorsese makes wise directing choices as always, twisting, turning, and thickening the plot until no end – to a point beyond unimaginable conception – of course until the reveal. His cinematography is also well thought out but there are some lapses in acting. Although Dicaprio is a multifaceted actor and has held other roles that were mentally distraught (Catch Me If You Can or The Departed), throughout Shutter Island DiCaprio seemed too lightweight an actor in particular scenes to follow through with the necessary haunted character Scorsese desired. Ruffalo also seemed to fall through on his part, while he has also had strong roles in his past (The Zodiac), throughout his scenes all I could see him as was the best friend/ boyfriend from 13 Going on 30.