Shutter Island

tn_shutterislandSHUTTER ISLAND is alot like JURASSIC PARK. Outside experts are called in to a remote island where some unusual shit goes down. They’re shown the operation, the security setup, the layout. Then there’s a big ass storm so they can’t get off the island, the electric fences go down and the captives get loose and it’s bedlam. But it’s the criminally insane instead of dinosaurs, and it’s the guy who plays GANDHI instead of the director of GANDHI who’s their guide on the island. There are other minor differences, like for example this one is less about people staring in awe at dinosaurs and more about piecing together the traumatic events that haunt the hero, and figuring out how they tie into this mystery which unfolds in a surreal horror movie atmosphere and within the context of the 1950s, with the lingering horrors of WWII still in people’s minds as well as the fear of the hydrogen bomb and of communism, and most importantly during the psychiatric community’s bumpy transition from barbaric surgical methods to more modern psychotropic drugs and verbal forms of therapy. Otherwise though it’s pretty much the exact same movie, a blatant ripoff.

L.D. Caprio (THE QUICK AND THE DEAD) plays Teddy Daniels, a “duly appointed fedrull mahshall” who, with his brand new partner Mark Ruffalo ruffalo-danza(looking strangely like Tony Danza in this one, I noticed) is here on the magical island of Shutter to investigate the disappearance of a patient. But also, it turns out, he’s looking for the arsonist who killed his wife, who he believes might also be in this institution somewhere.

Nothing quite fits, though. The authority figures seem menacing and they also might be drugging him. He starts having weird dreams where he’s visited by his dead wife (Michelle Williams, HALLOWEEN H20) or back at the liberation of Dachau. So you see the world through paranoid, scarred, possibly drugged eyes. Not as drugged as BRINGING OUT THE DEAD, but I was definitely reminded of that one at times. There’s a backwards smoking scene.

mp_shutterislandMy favorite parts are where it gets extra weird. There are some really well done dreams where his visions of pretty Michelle Williams in a colorful summer dress seem to flit between flesh and ash, blood and water. Other times you don’t know if he’s hallucinating or just stumbling across some weirdness. There’s a scene involving rock climbing and a swarm of rats that just keeps getting stranger, started to remind me a little bit of Argento even thought it doesn’t reach that INFERNO level of insanity.  And I think at least in some cases there’s more logic to it than it seems at the time. At one point it seems for a second like there’s a portrait of Hitler in a doctor’s office. What? Oh, I see. This is a memory from WWII, it’s some nazi’s office. Nazis can get away with having Hitler posters in their offices, because they’re nazis, people expect that. Anyway, later you can see that the juxtaposition means something. It’s his mind piecing things together. Good editing trick by Thelma Schoonmaker.

The movie’s biggest strength is its atmosphere and looming sense of dread. It looks beautiful, and less naturalistic than most Scorsese. And the sound is a big part of it too. I kept wondering who did the score but I only saw Robbie Robertson of The Band credited as music supervisor. He must’ve done it RZA/Tarantino style from previously existing works. Looks like alot of John Cage pieces on there. The stuff they chose definitely has some echoes of CAPE FEAR and JAWS – those low tones growling at you like a bear in a cave.

It’s based on a book by Dennis Lehane. I haven’t read any of his books and wasn’t completely on board for the MYSTIC RIVER movie. But to me this was kind of the opposite of that one. See, in MYSTIC RIVER I was really enjoying it when it was a mystery, a riddle that hadn’t connected with its solution yet. Then when they explained what was going on it was just too fuckin ludicrous for me to square with all the interesting things that came before, and that just kind of fucked it up for me. With SHUTTER ISLAND it was an interesting mystery that I was anticipating having a come-down solution, turns out once it explains what’s going on it makes everything seem even more interesting.

SPOILERS THIS PARAGRAPH: I mean, I really like how it’s not just a sudden twist, it’s more like, “Okay, here is what’s going on. I know you don’t believe me, so let me lay out all the evidence and try to convince you that I’m straight up,” until you realize yeah, yeah, this is legit. Though even then you have to be prepared for a potential double-twist, a sucker twist. Also, isn’t it great that the scary authority figures really are good people, they really are trying to help him? And they genuinely are trying to avoid lobotomizing the poor dude, and in fact wouldn’t do it except that he purposely tricks them into it? It’s kind of a nice spin on the usual terrorized-by-mental-institution business.

The director is Martin Scorsese, the guy who did those movies with Robert Deniro. To be honest I wouldn’t say this was one of his best, but compared to your usual movie directing chumps you got going around these days it’s a fuckin masterwork. For example I liked it better than LAW ABIDING CITIZEN or SORORITY ROW. Of the other JURASSIC PARK movies I would say it is on par with parts 1 and 2 and definitely much better than part 3 even though that one did have pterodactyls. just my 2 cents.

This entry was posted on Monday, February 22nd, 2010 at 3:51 am and is filed under Reviews, Thriller. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

100 Responses to “Shutter Island”

  1. Well I’ll be. I was thinking of giving this one a pass with all the negative stuff I’ve been hearing but thanks to you I might check it out today during the matinee.

  2. What most people take to be Dicaprios Elaborate fantasy is based on historical facts he couldnt have known of at the time unless he was part of them.

    How did dicaprio know enough about the basic details of MK ultra etc, to build an elaborate fantasy around it 20+ years before it was exposed?

    feel free to shoot down my theory.

  3. come to think of it my last post was kinda spoilery. you might want to delete it/

  4. SPOILER: In the book, the very very ending, it is not implied that he is faking, they just have the last exchange and mention that the Ruffalo character shakes his head at something we can’t see. Yeah, Lehane’s plots are always sort of funky, but Scorsese still managed to get an awesome movie onscreen. Still, how fucked up is it that of the Clint Eastwood, Martin Scorsese and Ben Affleck directed adaptations of one guy’s books, Affleck is the one who made a truly great movie? Very fucked up, that is the answer.

  5. markus- Well he WAS a marshall for a good chunk of time, it seems perfectly reasonable that he would’ve heard something about evil Russian brain experiments, then cranked that paranoia up to 11 when he went all delusional.

  6. I think Leo must have known he was in trouble when the island’s security force consists of Buffalo Bill and the Zodiac killer. :)

    Yeah I thought this was a very fucking good moody suspenseful thriller. Maybe a minor Scorsese title, but fuck Triple-A Marty is indeed better than most people’s best work. Scorsese having just movie nerd fun in playing the genre’s conventions, with heavy overt influences from VERTIGO and Robert Wise’s THE HAUNTING. I like this Marty thriller more than CAPE FEAR.

    What impresses me most is that as Vern alluded to, unlike most contemporary thrillers SHUTTER doesn’t completely hinge it’s whole effort on the shock & awe of the twist ending. Which is good because I’m sure 95% of the audience guessed it when they sat down at the theatre. Indeed the ending is only part of the narrative, part of the visceral experience.


    Brendan -I think its more like a boilerplate of post-WW2 paranoia topics. Nukes, Russians, brain surgery, HUAC, etc.

    As for the ending, my impression was that the last line is more an ironic sad thing to say in light of his condition. But the theory holds some water I suppose.

  7. I have a question not related to the movie. Vern, how do you decide what movie you’ll put in () when you mention an actor? Michelle Williams was nominated for movies yet Halloween H20 was the movie you choose. Is it because it’s a horror movie and this is sort of a horror movie?

    I guess I’ll add something about the movie how I still have no interest in seeing this.

  8. Vern: Did you find DiCaprio convincing as a World War 2 veteran? I always picture those guys as Robert Mitchum or Lee Marvin types; you can smell the booze on their breath just from looking at a still picture. Did Leo’s babyface strain the credibility there?

  9. Lawrence: My favorite is when Academy Award calibre actors like Paul Giamatti are referred to as “that guy that Malcolm in the Middle painted blue.”

    I won’t speak for Vern’s overall strategy, but the results are often hilarious.

  10. Better than “Sorority Row”? Excellent, a must-see then!

  11. Lawrence – My favorite Vernism: “David Cronenberg (JASON X)”

  12. Vern, I just about spilled my coffee at that Tony Danza comment. My buddy and I thought the same thing during the opening frames. The fact that he keeps calling Teddy “Boss” throughout the movie actually made it more difficult to get over.
    Anyways, I fucking loved this movie. It has everything I love: Pulpy police procedural, gothic horror, psychological thriller and existential mystery. I haven’t seen a movie like this since Orson Welle’s adaption of Franz Kafka’s THE TRIAL. A spiral shaped plot that madly spins around and around, giving us glimpses of the truth through beautiful, awful dream sequences and some great character work. Effects were fantastic. I know that a large part of that island was digitally rendered but I could not tell you where the practical began or where the CGI ended.
    RRA, you’re right. Anyone paying attention could figure out Teddy’s secret pretty quickly but I truly believe that mystery was not for us (the viewers) to solve, It was for Teddy. We are along for the ride and there is so much more to absorb once you accept that fact. The level of detail was staggering and the score was devastating.
    The very best film I’ve seen in a long, long time.
    Jareth, Leo gives his best performance ever in this. Totally believable. I cried like a baby when all was revealed during the final flashback.

  13. Darryll: Thanks for the comment on DiCaprio. I’m one of those jerks who has a hard time getting into his performances; BLOOD DIAMOND, for example, totally failed to convince me, despite the obvious work he did to pick up Afrikaans, and I still see GANGS OF NEW YORK as a comedy.

    But I know the guy has talent. You get glimpses of it in stuff like DEPARTED and REVOLUTION ROAD.

  14. Man, Gangs of New York is such an almost-there in terms of concept and execution. Such an amazingly beautiful recreation of the city, such a loaded cast, and yet, something in it just never clicks, something about DiCaprio and Diaz never clicks in a way that makes me really give a shit, or makes me not want to spend more time with Bill or Boss Tweed or any of the other crazy characters. Honestly, the more interesting story is the one where Liam Neeson and his immigrant horde try to cut themselves a piece of America for themselves against Daniel Day-Lewis’ mustache. That sword-in-a-crucifix thing is the most badass weapon-never-really used in a long time, right up there with the glaive.

  15. Darryll – I guess its like JACOB’S LADDER. It’s the journey, not the destination, which matters. I especially loved that introduction shot of the island, like something from the original KING KONG.

    It’s interesting how ISLAND is doing good with people in general, but the critics hated it. I don’t get it.

    Brendan – I would kill to see that GANGS OF NEW YORK workprint version, before the Weinsteins shived it out in the prison yard during lunch. Apparently Scorsese gave his closest friends and associates a VHS copy of “his movie.” No narration, 15-20 minutes longer…yeah I would like to see if its any better or not.

    That said I’ll give GONY this: I love endings where you have a giant epic brawl between two sides, but ultimately it boils down between their leaders in a personal fight. Even that silly THE POSTMAN did that too, which was nice.

  16. This review has a twist. Vern doesn’t mind giving out spoilers…just like Jay Leno did with Sixth Sense! So (SPOILER) THEY’RE THE SAME GUY?

  17. Jareth: Yeah, I’ve had problems with Leo in the past. His AVIATOR was unrealistic and his work in BODY OF LIES was uninspired but he is hardening himself with each role. He was great in the DEPARTED and even better in SHUTTER ISLAND. I can see why Scorsese continues working with him. He’s no De niro but he’s damn close.

    It’s funny, in a podcast review I commented that we are given way more information than Teddy but upon reflection that’s not entirely true. We know as much as he does but it’s the significant glances and loaded comments that tip us off. The mystery for me was the true identity of Chuck. At one point I wasn’t even sure if he was real or a figment of Teddy’s active mind.

    I’ve seen GANGS OF NEW YORK once and never felt the need to see it again. It was on television a few weeks ago and I turned it off after the opening gang war. That’s the best part.

  18. “Did you find DiCaprio convincing as a World War 2 veteran? I always picture those guys as Robert Mitchum or Lee Marvin types; you can smell the booze on their breath just from looking at a still picture. Did Leo’s babyface strain the credibility there?”

    Jareth, ever hear of Audie Murphy?

  19. Lawrence – well, I have to admit that sometimes I go for the cheap laugh by mentioning a bad or embarrassing movie that some acclaimed actor was in and people forget about. For example you might say “Jennifer Aniston (LEPRECHAUN)” or “Tommy Lee Jones (BATMAN FOREVER).” But more often, including in this case, I like to do the lowbrow movie that people forgot about that I actually like. I am a fan of HALLOWEEN H20 and to me it actually makes Michelle Williams cooler that she was in that and now is working with Scorsese.

    I would do the same for anybody that was in a BLADE movie, a Seagal movie, etc. Obviously Michael Caine is always gonna be ON DEADLY GROUND to me. That may come across as an insult but to me it’s a compliment, showing that he can work in “good” movies and the kind of shit that I like too.

    So I guess to answer your question I am both going for a cheap laugh and offering my own type of legitimacy to the actors.

  20. David Lambert: Now that you mention it, DiCaprio could probably portray Audie Murphy in a biopic really well.

    I guess what I was thinking was that we learn that Leo’s character in SHUTTER ISLAND was at the liberation of a concentration camp, and I was concerned that his boyish looks would be an obstacle to the depiction of the trauma associated with that kind of backstory, whereas with a Lee Marvin type face it wouldn’t be an issue. I’m not saying Leo’s character shouldn’t have a babyface; there’s a lot you can do with that.

    From what people are telling me, Scorsese didn’t make Leo the Pvt Ryan kind of innocent war character, and that Leo was up to the job.

  21. Isn’t Leo a little too tall to play Audie Murphy? I think the guy who plays Eric on Entourage would be perfect.

  22. I got a There Will Be Blood vibe from the score, which was really good. I spent the whole first viewing wondering what the twist was. Saw it again yesterday for a second time and loved it.


    When Danza shakes his head and the guy with the icepick starts walking toward them……..poor guy.

  23. One thing I really liked was how the editing was always just a little bit off. There were lots of skipped frames and messed up continuity between shots. Not enough to be distracting, just enough to unsettle you. Did the occasionally overbearing music bug anybody else? Mostly it’s pretty subtle but that part at the beginning when they were driving into the facility, the music got so ridiculous I started laughing.

  24. Question CrustaceanHate: At the theatre I saw this in, there were a number of imperfections in the reel that I’m not sure were intentional. Did your screening include a single frame of the little girl upside down just before the car blew up. Mine did. Also, big cigarette burns followed by green tinted insert shots?

  25. I fucking love this movie and really dont understand any hate it gets. And this is a great review. I read the first paragraph and immediately hated my own review for being so damned inferior. Blatant rip off of Jurassic Park indeed.

  26. RE: markus (SPOILERS)

    Umm…it’s extra-narrative. The author knows of MK Ultra. The author assumes you know of MK Ultra. He plays off of your fears and loose understanding or awareness of this subject to make the fantasies seem more plausible. MK Ultra is a fairly obscure thing to most people. But, at the same time, it is just well known enough that many readers/viewers will think, oh…I’ve heard of something like that before.

    Here’s a bigger clue that it’s all fake — the entire WWII scene is FULL of anachronisms and made to mimic the child murder scenes beat for beat. The MK Ultra stuff and the WWII stuff were all in his head, delusions created to help contend with what his wife did after the his initial PTSD from the real events of WWII that remain unseen to the viewer.

  27. Was the whole thing in his head, hallucinated on the island, or did they really let him do all that stuff (leave the island, roam around everywhere) ect?

    I read the script while it was in production, saw the movie this weekend, I STILL can’t figure that out.

    I do like the idea, though, that the Dachau stuff was his fantasy and that we never actually see the REAL horrific traumas of whatever actually happened to him in WWII. I’m not sure it’s correct, but it’s a great interpretation.

  28. Vern’s () movies crack me up. Jennifer Aniston (LEPRECHAUN). Hilary Swank (NEXT KARATE KID). Charlton Heston (WAYNE’S WORLD 2). Awesome. But you gotta love DiCaprio in THE QUICK AND THE DEAD, which I was a bit baffled by the first time I saw it but it just keeps getting better with age.

  29. Oh, and according to the folks I know who’ve seen the alternate cut of Gangs Of New York, it’s not very differant. There’s less narration, it’s maybe five minutes longer, and some events happen in slightly differant order, especially when Amsterdam returns to the Five Points for the first time, but if you didn’t like the release cut, the earlier version is not gonna change anybody’s mind, supposedly. I liked the theatrical version, though, and I hope Scorsese gets to do a director’s cut of Gangs someday.

  30. CrustaceanHate: My local newspaper – which didn’t like the film at all – singled out the soundtrack with the following remark:

    “Cue big, scary music, which Scorsese’s soundtrack supervisor Robbie Robertson does to ludicrously bombastic affect, further weakening the gravity of an already risible scenario.” Ouch.

    Just one more thing: I didn’t see SHUTTER ISLAND because THE DEFENDOR opened up here in Canada this weekend, and I figured SHUTTER ISLAND won’t be going anywhere, while DEFENDOR could be gone in a week. I recommend it. Woody Harrelson was really good in it, and the film has more heart than I would have thought.

  31. Yar there be spoilers here!

    You ever see those people who leave a movie like 2-3 minutes before the credits roll? I guess they are avoiding the traffic or congestion in the hallways or something.

    Anyway those people came to my viewing of Shutter Island tonight and left right after the lighthouse finale but before the revelation that he had relapsed(or was making it up some people are saying).

    As I as leaving the theater I realized I left the film with an entirely different experience than they had. They got a movie with a happy ending. I even imagined the guy thinking to himself “Well at least the dude didn’t get a lobotomy.”

    Great movie though. Not one of Scorsese’s strongest but I think most will agree even his weaker stuff is far superior to the majority of fluff we get.

    Easily my favorite shot of the movie was that long-ass pan of the S.S. soldiers in front of the firing squad. Not because of the ultra-violence really I was just sat there with my mouth hanging open wondering how exactly they achieved it. Was it really like 70 extras doing there best death throes in one long ass take or several groups stitched together in post? I don’t know. I just know I thought it looked amazing.

  32. CC: SPOILERS Yes, they let him roam around the island as he wanted, and pretty much everything that happened, actually happened except warped through his delusions to have meanings that weren’t there. The only completely fabricated thing was the meeting he had with the fake Rachel and the only thing that was complete delusion was the meeting he had with the ‘real’ Rachel. Possibly the rats as well.

    RRA- Man, I would love to believe that there is some cut that magically fixes every issue that GONY has, but I don’t. The issues I have with that movie is stuff that I think was fundamentally fucked up from day one. The story just wasn’t that captivating, the actual stars didn’t have the weight to carry the movie and the chemistry between DiCaprio and Diaz was as off as their now you hear it, now you don’t accents (an issue that continues to plague Leo up to and including SHUTTER). I mean, it’s like WATCHMEN, the additional stuff does make the movie much much better, but it doesn’t make up for the fact that the ending is truncated, one of the leads is horribly miscast and the Laurie is an annoying pain in the ass. Some flaws just run to deep. Still, good to have another reason to bitch out the Weinsteins, those fucks.

  33. dieselboy- Agreed man, that shot just kept going, and going and going and going. It’s the Energizer Bunny of massacre sequences.

  34. dieselboy- Knowing how old school Scorsese is, I’m going to guess it was 70 extras meticulously rehearsed and set up.

  35. Brendan: There will never be a shortage of reasons to complain about the Weinstein Company. Just today I read an article claiming that they’ve seen MACHETTE and don’t think it’s very good. What an incredible demonstration of bad taste and unprofessionalism: slagging a project they were out-bid on.

  36. *Spoilers* (Fast and The furious) Get it? The cars have…fuck it. But seriously, there’s spoilers here.

    I have to subscribe to the theory that DiCaprio didn’t actually relapse at the end. The role play that Kingsley set up was a last ditch effort to bring him back, and as such there wasn’t a significant threat or punishment to DiCaprio before.

    With an actual threat in place, DiCaprio is able to accept what happened and finally receive the punishment he feels he’s deserved the whole time. I don’t think he ever wanted empathy or help and since that what he was given his only recourse was to create these delusions and forget the event entirely. Again, with the introduction of the lobotomy threat, he’s finally able to get the punishment he feels he deserves so there is no reason for him to live in his delusional world.

    The look that Ruffallo gives him as he walks away should be a big clue as he had been DiCaprio’s primary for two years and knows DiCaprio pretty well. The fact that there was doubt in Ruffallo’s eyes about DiCaprio’s “marshal” character tells me that there’s something going on with DiCaprio that is out of place with his normal delusional behavior.

    In other words, I think Ruffallo suspected that DiCaprio was faking it. Why he didn’t do anything about it…Maybe he did. It’s implied that they went through with the lobotomy but maybe he stopped them until they were sure he was actually still delusional. However, if they did find out, there would be no punishment and he would just end up relapsing again. It’s a vicious circle.

    Another thing to consider is that Kingsley made a comment about breaking through and connecting with his patients. I don’t think it ever occurred to him that maybe all DiCaprio wanted was to pay for his crime. After all, most of his adult life and even his delusions seemed to center around the pursuit of justice.

  37. I’m skipping most of the comments for now to avoid spoilers. Sorry guys, I’m not ignoring you just to be mean. Though it IS the kind of evil, nasty thing Frank Booth would do. “Don’t be a good neighbor to her…or I’ll ignore your comments on Outlaw Vern’s websight! You hear me fuck? I’LL GIVE YOU THE COLD SHOULDER — STRAIGHT FROM MY HEART, FUCKER!! YOU KNOW WHAT A COLD SHOULDER IS? I WON’T READ A SINGLE FUCKING ONE! YOU SPELL-CHECKED FOR NOTHING, FUCKER!!!”

    Ahem. Pardon me, gotta let it out every now and then.

    Anyway, I’ve never read Lehane, either. But GONE BABY GONE was based on one of his books, and it was pretty good. It was really shockingly phenomenally good when you consider that it was directed by Mr. Ben Affleck. Or maybe not, because there was no reason to assume one way or the other. But, you know, it’s BEN AFFLECK, if you get my meaning.

    That one had a twist, but it wasn’t as silly and out of left field as MYSTIC RIVER’s. Maybe you can review it, too, just to round out the Lehane movie adaptations. As if you don’t already get somebody telling what you oughta review three times a day.

  38. I can see where the Afflec hate comes from, I really can. The dude has made some groan inducing films i.e Gigli, Phantoms, Pearl Harbor…those three kind of sum it all up.

    But there’s really no denying the dude can(when he wants to and with the right director) really act. I really liked him in Good Will Hunting,Chasing Amy, Dazed and Confused and he was especially good in Mike Judge’s Extract.

    Also he’s a sort of regular on Real Time with Bill Maher and the dude really comes off as incredibly intelligent and well-read. He’s kind of hard not to like.

  39. I really found the book to be completely underwhelming, so even with Scorsese’s involvement I’m not all that interested.

    I’ve read a lot of Dennis Lehane’s books, actually, with Mystic River being by far the favorite, followed by Gone Baby Gone, which Ben Affleck (of all people) actually made into a pretty compelling little drama-thriller a couple of years ago. I actually thought Affleck’s movie was better than Eastwood’s Mystic River, which really wasn’t as great it was made out to be, IMO.

    But Shutter Island – it was published really fast after Mystic River, when Lehane was a hot name in thrillers / mystery – but it didn’t feel like anything else he’d written. So I had a theory that it was something he’d written early in his career, maybe in grad school, and had never quite finished. When his agent was pushing him for another book in the wake of Mystic River’s success, he decided to pull that one out of the trunk, dust it off a little, and send it in.

    Of course, we’ll probably never know if that’s the case – but that’s just the feeling I got. Didn’t like the ending much, felt it was pretty much a throwaway story, very slight, manipulative, and not as clever as it aspired to be.

    I was really surprised when Scorsese made this his follow-up to The Departed. Maybe he wanted to do something minor after that big Oscar hog, but at his age I wonder why he’s fooling around with this. I honestly expected that it would go into turnaround or development hell or whatever they call it.

    I guess Scorsese and DiCaprio really liked the material. This is just one of life’s little head-scratchers — I thought it was fluff.

  40. I’ve never read any of Lehane’s books but I’m curious why so many filmmakers adapt his work. What’s the appeal? In Scorsese’s case I can only assume it was an opportunity to play in a different genre sandbox and riff on a lot of his favorite old movies. I just imagine he had a really good time making this.

    Oddly enough, the picture SHUTTER ISLAND reminded me of the most was ANGEL HEART. They both take place in that post war period, and they both involve a dramatic identity switch’r’oo on the main protagonist.

    According to Roger Ebert, Scorsese showed his cast a 1947 noir called OUT OF THE PAST before principle photography got under way. Some critics, on the other hand, have likened it to Sam Fuller’s SHOCK CORRIDOR (1963). I haven’t seen either of these pictures but you can bet I’ll be tracking them down.

  41. Darryll – Also check out Robert Wise’s THE HAUNTING. That influence was definately in SHUTTER ISLAND.

  42. Thanks. Will do. Been meaning to give that one a spin for years.

  43. Darryll: I don’t remember the upside-down little girl or cigarette burns but I do remember things like reel changes occuring in weird places. If there was any crap like that in there then I’m pretty sure it was intentional. I don’t think Scorcese would let anything like that slip through accidentally.

  44. Thanks CrustaceanHate. I don’t know. I got the feeling that particular print was in pretty bad shape. I’m sure you’re right about Scorsese’s standards but even he can’t control the quality of every individual print. I only ask because my buddy and I both noticed these inconsistencies and debated whether or not it was intentional. I think if he were trying to evoke a more period feel he would have shot in black & white, not gone for Grindhouse grunge.

    Anyone else notice these apparent flaws in the print they saw? What was your interpretation?

  45. darryl-i didn’t notice the upside down girl but I definitely saw more than one cigarette burn. And more than once it really seemed like a particular edit was a second or two off, I don’t think most people would have even caught it or thought about it. My wife, for instance, didn’t know what I was talking about,

  46. Not a bad film at all, though it didn’t seem terribly Scorsese-like to me somehow (no gangsters: am I prejudiced?). Bonus: We’ve finally seen a Scorsese flick with Elias Koteas in it. This is the guy you get when De Niro can’t be bothered. Plus he was almost doing De Niro’s Frankenstein monster! Somehow that tickled me.
    Any lesser director would have left the ending more ambiguous I think. It takes some guts to just say: the man’s a nutter! It actually makes every odd thing in the film make sense. Of course they didn’t give him access to the personnel files, they don’t give those out to mental patients.

  47. Darryll: One thing Parker did really well in ANGEL HEART is the period settings and costumes. His colour palette for that film is pretty much the exact opposite of stuff like AMERICAN GRAFFITI of DINER. As far as I’m concerned, that is the film I compare all 1950s movies to in terms of authenticity.

  48. Clitus I disagree. I think the scene where Kingsley brings out a fucking posterboard and explains step by step to Leo (and us) what has just happened in the movie is the weakest part of the film. I think by leaving a little ambuguity and letting us figure out some things for ourselves after the fact the movie could have been a little better. I still liked the film btw. The only other thing I had a problem with was the overbearing and sometimes silly score.

  49. odo19 – You mean like every goddamn twist ending thriller does these days?

    Fuck I liked that ending, I mean look at PSYCHO with that whole psychobabble lecture of what is wrong with Norman. Of course we already figured out Norman was loony tunes, but I suppose that is what Scorsese was gunning for. That sort of ending you would have gotten in the 50s/60s.

    And again, the ending is NOT THE MOVIE. It’s only part of it.

  50. Clitus- I feel like they did. Yeah, there is no ambiguity as to what is going on, but the ending ending, where I feel like they hinted that maybe Leo wasn’t actually relapsing, but was faking because he wanted out, but they didn’t say for sure, so it’s open to debate.

  51. Jareth – I agree. ANGEL HEART is a beautiful film. I love how Parker’s camera lingers on the ephemera of the period. A pack of cigarettes and a cup of coffee on a formica countertop, a long brass key in an old lock, various I.D. cards, noseguards, fans, women’s undergarments, a ceramic bowl full of bloody water. I’ve actually frozen the picture when Harry rummages through his desk drawer to admire the contents and the film’s attention to detail. There’s even a discussion on the development of the ball point pen versus the fountain variety. Everything is designed to place us in the period. Just gorgeous filmatism.

  52. Should have addressed that to odo, sorry clitus.

    RRA- Actually, I’m with odo about the chalkboard. I really don’t mind any of the twists, and even if I did, it wouldn’t have undermined the two hours of pitch perfect filmmaking that came before BUT having Kingsley pull out a chalkboard that has the solution written down isn’t the best bit of storytelling that could’ve been done.

  53. Those anagram names make absolutely no sense, it’s just one of those things they put it in there to make it seem like it’s the solution to a puzzle. Crustacean Hate = Tuna Arse Cachet! Of course, it was all so obvious!

  54. Unless the use of anagrams are a common trope among paranoid schizophrenics in real life. In that case there is a real world precedent for it. And besides, they did establish they needed to basically force Teddy to come to grips with the truth of his psychosis. Actual visual aids illustrating the depth of his dementia would seem to be an effective tool.

    “Why are you all wet, Baby?”

  55. I thought this movie was excellent, I had a churning feeling in my gut during some scenes, that’s how creeped out I was

    also Vern, I totally want you to review the Jurassic Park movies now

  56. Best review and comments section concerning this movie I’ve seen anywhere. Nothing to add, you gentlemen have said it all. Loved the flick even though I guessed the ending based on one line of dialogue about ten minutes in.

  57. Gwai: Which line?

  58. SPOILERS go without saying, obviously: the line where Rachel’s psychology is explained: she has created an elaborate fantasy world to cover up a traumatic event in her life. At that moment I was just like “oh. That’s what he’s doing.” And then I was consciously on the lookout for anything that would definitely rule that theory out, and was never disproven.

  59. I should specify that I guessed the twist, not the ending. The actual ending on the steps out front I did not see coming.

  60. Ah, OK that makes sense. I read the book, so I was always aware of where it was going and could sit back and enjoy the little details (watch Ruffalo throughout the movie, it is absolutely beautiful how double-sided every single expression on his face is) so I’m curious to see how other people felt about the game that was being played.

  61. For me, it was a significant look from Ben Kingsley’s character during he and Teddy’s first meeting that tipped me off. He mentions something about water then gives Teddy a meaningful sidelong glance as if to catch his reaction. I knew Teddy must either be a former or (more likely) current prisoner…eh, excuse me, patient of the facility.

    After that, though, I began to question whether Chuck was real or a figment of Teddy’s imagination. I began watching him closely. Taking notes and speaking into a small recording device during the screening. The other people in the theatre didn’t like that or the flashlight. How the hell else am I gonna see my notebook, you fuck! You’re one of them ain’t ya’. I’ve got my eye on you!

  62. *SPOILER*

    Who gives out Aspirin in dixie cups anyway? I’m going to start doing that from now on. If anyone ever asks for some Ibuprofen, I’m gonna put it in a dixie cup before I give it to them.If they ask why I used a dixie cup and didn’t just hand them the bottle, I’ll do an evil laugh and whisk away to my underground lair.


    Yes I do have an underground lair, but it’s only has 3′ of clearance.

  63. Oh I think I got misconstrued a bit, yes the very end was left ambiguous, as far as the “relapse”. I meant a lesser director would have left it up in the air as to whether Leo was crazy at all… Or maybe there really is a secret dungeon under the lighthouse! Gee who knows? That sort if thing.

    Uh that lighthouse, it’s one thing that did bug me. If it’s only an old unused lighthouse, why have a fence and a guard? What is it, looney bait?

    Looking back on the movie, it’s fun to try to remember all the clues I missed at the time. One I just remembered: Good Ol’ “Chuck” struggling to pull out his gun and holster. Gee, it’s like you never had to do that before Chuck!

  64. Man I just got back from seeing this, and I can’t believe you guys are going so easy on it. It’s all really great (with the exception of some frustrating green screen stuff. What, you couldn’t actually get Ruffalo and DiCaprio on a real boat?) until that fucking idiotic ending.

    I don’t know about you, but I’m more inclined to believe it’s all a giant experimental brainwashing conspiracy than they decided to let this nutcase run around the island and beat up guards and blow up cars and run along the edge of cliffs and got every single fucking maniac on the island to play along. That’s not just a “don’t think about it too hard” ending, if you think about that shit for even a second the movie’s fucking finished! The idea that the head psychiatrist intentionally had an inmate incapacitate a guard, and run up to a lighthouse where he had this whole elaborate second office (!?) and just expected everything to work out is just waaaaay too far beyond any kind of reasonable logic. It’s so patently absurd it just completely took me out of the movie and ruined everything that came before. I mean, it’s seriously the most intelligence-insulting way the movie could possibly have ended. If I had been Teddy listening to that bullshit I’d have been even more convinced that it was an elaborate setup.

    Fortunately, it doesn’t end with the twist. DiCaprio really puts his all into the tragedy of it and it almost won me back, particularly with the very slight suggestion that maybe Teddy just wants out of his misery permanently. Still, just thinking about how this was supposed to work infuriates me. I’d even have bought it if they’d claimed the whole thing was in his head, but the idea of him running around the island interviewing people while being coached by Ruffalo is bananas, and it also makes half the movie make no sense (there never was a storm? then why can he run around everywhere, climb over broken walls, etc. Ben Kingsley has a transcript of his conversation with George? You mean the one guy who he talked to when he was AWAY from his caretaker? wtf?!)

    I don’t know that I’ve ever turned on a movie so hard after really liking it at first. There’s lots to love, but I walked out feeling like it had totally wasted my time.


  65. Mr. Subtlety – No the TWIST is *SPOILER* You’re too hard on it.

  66. I felt the same way about this one that I did about the book: it has some nice atmosphere, but the story is basically a serious of long-winded expository scenes and red herrings that all get completely negated by the ending. Not only does nothing really happen during the movie, but you find out at the end that even LESS happened.

    I might have liked it more if I hadn’t read the book and didn’t already know what the game was… all those drawn out scenes of dialogue are really tiresome once you realize that they don’t actually mean anything, and I only really perked up during the dream sequences.

  67. serious = series, you know what I meant.


    Dan — 100% agree. We had a pretty good conversation here awhile ago about “It was all a dream!” endings (can’t remember which comment section, but you probably remember), and to me this one just about takes the cake for worst possible use. It has everything I hate about this sort of thing with nothing that I like. It means that the entire plot of the film was completely irrelevant, while at the same time telling us nothing at all about the character who’s doing the dreaming. I might have gone for it if the details of the fantasy had in some way elucidated the character or his predicament, but as it turns out most of the details are completely superfluous. Everything suggestive about his dream is superficial. Everything we learn during the whole plot of the film is also in the one real flashback scene with the wife. So even if I’d been able to buy the idiotic concept they they had had set this all up for him, it still means that we watched the least possible relevant part of his story. And it’s really a shame because the cast and crew seem to be trying so hard. If only there were even the slightest reason to tell this story…


  69. I hope there’s a sequel with Leo as a lobotomized ghost soldier doing top secret missions for HUAC

  70. I think the beauty of the entire movie is you don’t know how to feel and you don’t know which to believe. You are very much in the mind of Leo’s character. Paranoid and stuck between two different things that both could very much be true. I called it very early on. The fact that it didn’t show him anywhere else but the Ferry and the Island. He has experienced Trauma. The Doctor said he does experimental procedures. Patients seemed coached. Just met his partner. And there wasn’t much to the movie unless he was crazy. Frankly, practically from the beginning I just felt that’s the only way it could have been.

  71. Pae — not to mention the fact that there’s about 5,000 “meaningful looks” between the rest of the cast which they’re not exactly subtle about.

  72. Mr Subtlety, you raised a point above about the obvious greenscreening. I swear there seemed to be green screen in scenes between DiCaprio and Ruffallo before the big reveal (notably on the boat to the island and in the cemetery), but none after. Huh. Maybe it was a Scorsese clue that the whole thing was fake. Or, I’m reading into technical shortcomings too much.

  73. Jimbolo,

    I would be inclined to agree that the opening on the boat was deliberately supposed to look unreal. The whole film goes for a heightened reality style; I think the green screen is just one of many clues that Scorsese worked into the film, and maybe also something of a shout-out the back-projection type effects in the old school horror/thriller movies he’s paying homage to. That said, I’m not sure I actually LIKED the look of the green screen, and can agree with those who think of it as something of a distraction.

  74. Jimblo/Dan- hadn’t considered that the unconvining greenscreening might be intentional. Although most of the movie is stylized I can’t think of any other parts that really call attention to the technique in this (somewhat meta-level) manner but it’s certainly possible. If this was the intent, though, I think it was a bad idea because it reminds you that you’re watching a movie instead of sucking you into the atmosphere of it the way most of it does.

    And of course, if I read it correctly, the part of the boat WAS real… at least, they really were on a boat which disembarked onto the island. It wasn’t entirely in his head, so it ought not to look unreal. On the other hand, the story plays kind of fast and loose with what is and isn’t real (I guess there was no storm, after all? Because that makes sense) so its possible I guess that he was never on a boat at all.

  75. I think he’s literally on the boat, but he’s also a madman so he perceives the water as ominous and seemingly infinite.

  76. Sure, but does it have to look fake? Seems like you could have actually rented a real boat on a cloudy day, Marty.

    nah, just kidding. I get where you’re coming from but I think if it was intentional it was a bad idea in a movie which generally has pretty excellent stylistic ideas. Everything else pulled me into the movie’s reality; those greenscreens really just made me remember I was watching a movie.

  77. Subtlety,

    I’m not a fan of the greenscreen look either, I’m just defending Scorsese on the grounds that I believe it was a deliberate choice for effect and not some sort of fuck-up.

  78. Maybe this movie will work really well on some kid thirty years from now when he digs it up out of obscurity and writes a paper on it for his film theory class. A real auterist approach to Shutter Island. Scorsese’s intentionally incompetent greenscreen effects. Schoonmaker’s poorly-timed edits and continuity errors. Ben Kingsley standing in front of a dry-erase board covered in anagrams – so meta. It makes no sense, but on purpose. It’s a comment on early 21st century storytelling mechanics, the era of the third-act twist that negates everything that came before. “Dude, get this: NOTHING WAS WHAT IT SEEMED! NOTHING WAS WHAT IT SEEMED!”

    I love Scorsese but this movie really bummed me out. I agree with Mr. Subtlety’s comments re: how nothing in the story makes any fucking sense at all. The only way the behavior in this movie can be justified is if Dicaprio has some kind of information in his mind that the others are trying to get access to, and thus they have reasonable motivation to give him free reign of the Shutter Island facilities. Otherwise these guys are just really shitty doctors and if I was a patient on Shutter Island I would be seriously pissed. “Yeah, sorry, instead of role-playing that you’re a cop and I’m a suspect, I think I’m going to role-play I’m a king with a fish on my head that talks that’s also a hat I wear. Oh what – did I murder the girl? Sorry, can’t say – talk to the hat.”

    Also like what was the Law of Four? Just nothing? I frequently stopped paying attention during this so maybe I missed something there.

    It is kind of weird though that I also noticed odd reel splices. I have a hard time believing that could be intentional but… maybe? In the scene where Dicaprio injects Max Von Sydow with the needle there was a sudden black frame interjected into the middle of their conversation. Both me and my friend got really excited by that and thought the movie was going to suddenly turn weird and avant-garde, but I think it was just a mistake. Still – hearing some of the analyses here almost makes me like the movie more. Like maybe every bad thing is secretly a good thing in disguise. You thought you were watching a shitty movie but no, NOTHING WAS WHAT IT SEEMED. It was actually good! D’oh! I can never keep my anagrams straight.

    Bring on the college papers kids! Shutter Island: Scorsese’s Forgotten Masterpiece. Let’s do this thing.

  79. I just saw this yesterday and got a huge kick out of it, glad to see someone referenced Fuller’s SHOCK CORRIDOR above… I need to see it again, but my initial thinking is that the story kind of painted itself into a corner, and before you could laugh at it the story just went “Nah, look again. I was painting the CEILING, not the floor,” and then just saunters out of the room.

    SPOILER: Basically, if you’re seeing the whole story from one character’s point of view, and that character is drugged and delusional, with some Tarkovsky-influenced memory flashes, you can sort of get away with everything.

    But some of those edits were a little strange and choppy, I grant you.

  80. *SPOILER* Crusty, I totally agree with the music..at the very beginning, I was muttering to myself, “oh come on”…it was way too much..it didn’t match the scene to me and the big booming storm with all the flickering light bulbs, etc… so cliche. When that guy that looked like a Nazi sergeant picked him up in the rain in his car and they were driving, the blue screen editing was so bad it looked like someone cut them out with an x-acto knife. One more thing that was ridiculous to the story, in the beginning when all the guards were combing the grounds, would they really waste money and everyone’s time just to play a psychological game/test for one patient (or was it all an illusion like the hundreds of rats)?

  81. Oh, TONY DANZA ahahahhahaha I said that right away as soon as I saw him.

  82. Vern didn´t you have seem the Dr Caligari movie? Cause Shutter Island looks some kind of revival of that plot, including the worst thing of Caligari, the end explaining the madness of the mais character. That movie was made in 1926, so is explainable that preocupation, but today? why make a thing linear when it can be complex?

  83. Did anyone stay with the end credits long enough to hear the vocals mixed over the top of the orchestral piece – the soulfully sung “Bitter Earth, what Fruit it bears…” lyrics? After the sadness lurking underneath the whole film, the song gave me goosebumps. A masterstroke finale – to the film’s finale.

  84. Again, you sadly try to review a movie that is way over your head. Maybe you should try something more your age genre. How bout the new chipmunks movie or furry vengeance. I think you’ll be able to grasp those titles a little better then something like Shutter Island, which was a great movie and even better book. I was very surprised when i heard Scorsese was directing this i couldn’t wait. This IMHO is DiCaprio’s best work to date since basketball diaries. However if it wasn’t for Scorsese then DiCaprio wouldn’t even be respected as an actor. Yea he did a good job in gilbert grape but it seems like he is becoming Scorsese’s golden boy. I didnt think he would ever recover from his titanic induced teen idol status to become one of the best young actor’s IN hollywood at the moment.

  85. And wow.. trying to compare THIS to Jurassic park. You really are a few eggs short of an omelet aren’t you Vern. Take my advice and just stick to the children’s movie so you don’t make more of a fool out of yourself then you already have. And again, your writing spoilers, not reviews. You haven’t even figured out that you need to use some sort of rating system for your movies kid. I’m sorry i am just being honest, please don’t be mad, its just honest criticism. Your better of just copying some reviews out of the newspapers and leave your “brilliant” comments in your own silly little mind. Chao

  86. Just wait until AU_Armageddon finds out about this new kid. He’s gonna have to step up his game.

  87. “Chao”

    Idiot troll is idiot.

  88. Tell him to bring it on gwai, whatever that’s suppose to mean. Ebonic, it means goodbye.

  89. Oh, well in that case, adios, or as the Aytalions say, “chow.”

  90. Well before you came along, Paul G, AU_Armageddon was the go-to guy for angry rants around these parts. He’s best known for putting all of us in our place and letting us know on a constant basis how faggoty we are. But he uses the word faggot like a term of endearment, really, and to tell you the truth I’m quite fond of him myself. But not in a gay I mean faggot type way. Anyway you have some serious work to do if you’re going to try to compete with him. And despite all his huffing and puffing he rarely disrespects the man Vern himself, whereas you seem to have performed the internet equivalent of marching into someone’s house and taking a big wet dump on their living room carpet. If you’re willing to revise your opinion, I present my favorite Vern review:


  91. Okay, that’s IT. I thought I could reform this knucklehead but if he’s gonna suggest I use a god damn rating system then fuck it, he is the first person ever to be banned from outlawvern.com. That’s like pissing on my grandma’s grave. Go read the movie blog or something buddy, the type of reviews you’re looking for will never be posted here.

    Or I guess to put it in a format you can understand, “Paul G is a-PAUL-ling! D-.”

  92. To paraphrase Calvin Broadus aka Snoop Dogg, “Ho’s up, G’s down while you motherfuckers troll to this! Lol smiley tongue wink thingy”

    [Even that jokey textese makes me sick that I used it.]

  93. Sorry Paul, we just don’t gel. Can’t you see it’s never gonna work out? If you hate me, my reviewing style and my thoughts about movies then there are several, perhaps dozens of other websights that contain other types of content. I think it would be better for everybody if you went and commented at one of those instead of here.

    thanks for your input

  94. Vern, FWIW I am a professional entertainment journalist and I gave up the idea of a rating system as a teenager (although the school paper still made me use one ’til I graduated). People kept saying to me, “How could you give that movie 4 stars? Or 1 star? or 2 stars? or 3.5 stars?” And I kept thinking, “Uh, I wrote a whole god damn essay about why I felt that way.”

    So please continue to express your thoughts in intelligent writing.

  95. Dont be upset man, i was just kidding with you, i wont crash your site im havin to much fun rofl. It’s funny but maybe we do have similar movie taste

  96. You know what kills me is how some of the guys at CHUD were using decimal points on a 10 point scale for a while. You’d see 9.6 ratings, 7.4, 3.2. Which meant their scale had 101 possible ratings. Fuckin ridiculous. I rate everything I see on IMDB so I default to a 10 point scale, but I find that you get into a weird netherverse under a rating of 5 or so. If I’ve rated a movie a 1 chances are that it’s so disastrously inept that it’s a hell of a lot more watchable and entertaining than a 4, which is probably so bland that I’ll forget it almost instantly. Rating systems are tricky, because you’re always going to run into problems with the subjective distinction between actual cinematic quality that most would agree on and guilty pleasure favorites that only you appreciate.

  97. If your readers need to break out a calculator to decipher your review then maybe you should be substituting an Algebra class instead of reviewing movies. Just a thought.

    I give the above advice a (2.891 x 6.77791) – 9.5949378 / out of 10.

  98. Call me insane (pun intended) but I actually liked this one better than Inception. It’s kind of crazy how similar the two are – besides Dicaprio being haunted by the memories of his two (crazy/suicidal) wives, there’s a similar loud, booming orchestral score, similar shots of him looking outside his kitchen home/cabin into the backyard, plunging his face in water and staring at a mirror trying to pull himself together, being facedown on the shore, etc…

    I did like Inception but think it was incredibly overrated and while well-made didn’t really speak to me on any level other than being well-crafted entertainment. On the other hand, I’ve never met a single person who liked Shutter Island and didn’t see the twist coming a mile away (which was nicely spoiled for me somewhere on this site in another movie board that wasn’t Inception). It’s kind of like The Village, where I guessed the twist BEFORE THE MOVIE STARTED but still appreciated the craft, acting and style so much that it didn’t matter to me. Sure, the twist is kind of dumb and a cheat and you can spend all day poking holes in the inconsistencies, but I genuinely felt w/ both movies the “shocking twist” isn’t really supposed to be a shocking twist per se, just a major beat in the story with something bigger to say.

    And oh, I like the comment above mentioning how Scorsese gets points for having a definitive answer in the crazy/not crazy mystery, and how any lesser director would have tacked some bush-league ambiguity at the very end. Which is kinda hilarious since that’s the end of Inception right there.

  99. hamslime, that’s why I rate my movies on two scales: The netflix stars scale, defined by netflix as 1=hate, 2=didn’t like, 3=like, 4=really like, 5=loved; and the IMDB scale [which everyone is familiar with, me personally, 5=neutral/halfgood/halfbad].

    Thus I can rate a movie 8/10 but only give it 2/5 stars because it’s a total masterpiece that I loved watching, but I hated how it ended and was disappointed with it despite appreciating it’s artistic merit. (Good example: David Lynch films the first time you see them.)

    I can also rate a movie 5/10 — saying it barely has any redeeming value as a movie — but give it 5/5 stars because it’s bad in such a way that I emotionally loved it, even though it was terrible.

    Mainly I started this simply because I visit both sites to rate. We use decimals now because there’s 5 stars, but then there’s “barely 5 stars” (4.6/5 stars), “almost 5 stars” (4.4/5), etc. It works well, actually. I

  100. It’s very trouble-free to find out any matter on net as compared
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