When Shutter Island was bumped from its perfect release date from October 2nd of last year to February 19th, it created a huge asterisk in my mind of the way present film's are being treated. Yes, from a financial standpoint, Paramount made a successful call, opening to $41 million on opening weekend, but my question is this: why wouldn't this excitingly twisty thriller be just as successful opening at a time where the Oscars begin to boom in people's mind, in a month that's perfect for a horror-themed movies (a la Halloween), and after a great marketing campaign that included Oscar buzz and a fantastic trailer?
I'll probably never know the answer to that question, but I digress. Shutter Island is a good film that becomes very close to greatness in its final act. I'll admit the first two acts hold you rather than grip, but that's only because this is Scorsese, one of the world's greatest filmmakers, re-teaming with his muse of movie stars Leonardo Dicaprio, whose last three combined efforts have been masterpieces. In other words, it's a minor, small critique.
Dicaprio plays Teddy Daniels, a U.S Federal Marshall who is sent to a Massachusetts mental asylum on the secluded Shutter Island. His new partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) joins Teddy as they try to unveil the island's dark histories after a patient named Rachel Solando has escaped. The asylum's creator Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley) is very proud of his life's work. He describes Rachel's escape, "it's as if she evaporated, straight through the walls." A B-movie line yes, but applied wonderfully under Scorsese's direction. As the mystery ensues, so does the evaporation of Teddy's sanity. We learn that there are secrets on Shutter Island much more complex than one might suggest.
This is a side of Scorsese we haven't seen in decades (Cape Fear), or perhaps ever before. It comes with a few mixed results, including a few draggy moments during Teddy's search, but they are overcome by a sensational final act that not only thrills, but moves. When we discover Teddy's past traumas intertwined with the actions on the island, hang on for some truly great cinema. Dicaprio shines (when does he not?) in a full-out, exposed, hold-nothing-back performance. Unfortunately for him, he has lost the chance for awards recognition. Yea-yea, there's always 2010's Oscar race, but the film's relevance will naturally be incorrectly labeled as untimely.
Shutter Island ends with a line that will stay with you. Pay attention to what it means, who is saying it, and why. It's a haunting statement of demonized psychology only spoken after an intensely terrifying experience. Same goes for the movie.