Shutter Island - Blu-ray Review

'Scorsese turns his pulpy, attractive, Gothic first half into a bogged down drama in the second'

Martin Scorsese's foray into pulp fiction, Shutter Island is a quasi-Gothic take on a locked room mystery, Mark Ruffalo and Leonardo DiCaprio's US Marshalls arriving on the decidedly sinister island to try to find an escaped mental patient only to discover, perhaps inevitably, that all is not what it seems.

As much perhaps should have been clear from the moment Sir Ben Kingsley stepped on to screen, his Dr Cawley a mere moustache twirl away from the type of dastardly gent found in Saturday morning cartoons. The fact that Kingsley keeps Cawley entirely believable, rather than wandering off into pseudo-thespian hamming, is great credit to the British actor, his Doctor a significant presence throughout the film, even when he's not on screen.

Most of the acting turns, for that matter, are top notch. DiCaprio and Ruffalo make a believable partnership and the latter shows a different, more submissive, side to his acting than when he's taken on cops before (notably in Zodiac). DiCaprio meanwhile continues to develop admirably as possibly the pre-eminent actor currently available, his powerful turn here coming in the same year as his deeper and more thorough take on Cobb in Inception. Really excellent support comes from Patricia Clarkson and Emily Mortimer whilst Michelle Williams still doesn't feel like a natural screen presence and Elias Koteas largely gets left on the cutting room floor.

With a major player in Koteas largely eradicated it's strange that one of the film's main problems is its length. At two-hours and eighteen-minutes it feels like Shutter Island should offer some more weighty conclusions than it actually goes for and this combination of the too long with the too simplistic, leads to a dramatically unsatisfying final third.

Scorsese's visuals, whilst a treat in most places, occasionally veer off into the overly-expressive and during a finale where, for the stories sake, it is absolutely vital that the audience leave with narrative satisfaction, he spends far too long examining and over-examining pretty much everything, combining dream sequences with various bits of explanation and unnecessary psycho-babble.

What this means is that Scorsese turns his pulpy, attractive, Gothic first half into a bogged down drama in the second, eschewing the conventions of length and thriller-type notions of his chosen genre in favour of deeper stuff altogether, some of which works and some of which struggles significantly to make itself heard. At times, spectacularly successful whilst at others a blend of genres that never sits correctly and resolves itself in far too lengthy a manner.

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'What is absent from the exercise however is that overriding sense of doom and shock necessary to elevate Shutter Island beyond mere conventional thriller status' - NixPix, 3/5


  1. even thought dicaprio usually annoys the heck out of me, i liked this movie. i thought that there were moments when the visuals were gorgeous. but i agree- the end seemed really bogged down. :)

  2. DiCaprio used to annoy me... but then he started making really great films! You're right, more often than not the visuals were really something - the island and the dream sequences looked great.

  3. I just watched Total Eclipse, it's so weird thinking about this.

    I liked this. Nice genre picture, will always be a minor Scorsesse film, but it's fine.

  4. Yeah, I agree. It is fine, I had fun for most of it but it's nothing special, I doubt in a couple of years whether it will continue to appear on people's favourite Scorsese films.