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Shutter Island

Psychologically Thrilling

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

Shutter Island opens with the introduction of U.S. Marshall Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) bent over a toilet spilling his guts en route to the infamous island that houses scores of the criminally insane. The seasickness Daniels’ endures on his trip to Shutter Island will pale in comparison to the head trip he will endure while trying to track down an escaped murderess lurking somewhere on the island.

Upon stepping onto the island with his partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo), things go from grim and ominous to downright creepy. Sideways glances from a number of the ‘patients’ on the island give you the distinct impression that these people know Daniels. But, they’re ‘crazy’, so these odd glances are easy to dismiss.

Less easy to dismiss is the fact that Rachel (the murderess in question) seemingly got out of her cell undetected despite the fact that her window was barred and the door to her cell was locked from the outside. Even more disconcerting is Dr.Cawley’s (Ben Kingsley) assertion that there are 66 patients on Shutter Island when it appears there may be 67.

What starts out as a mystery becomes an intense psychological thriller as Daniels finds himself seemingly unable to leave the island and confronted with a number of odd questions and revelations. Director Martin Scorsese does a masterful job of leading you deeper and deeper into the mysteries of Shutter Island without revealing too much at any given point. Shutter Island is a film that requires total engagement.

As a viewer, you are left wondering for the majority of the film if there is something nefarious happening at Shutter Island or if Daniels is actually becoming a bit unhinged himself. Given the tragic death of Daniel’s wife and his experiences liberating a death camp in Dakau during World War II, it’s understandable why Daniels might be suffering from a little PTSD.

Leonardo DiCaprio gives one of his better performances as the clearly world weary if not a bit addled Daniels. Despite DiCaprio’s naturally youthful appearance, Daniels is a man who appears to have aged prematurely. Dark, jaded, and hardened by the horrors of war and the death of his wife, Daniels may not be as reliable as one might think.

DiCaprio’s performance is complemented nicely by that of Ben Kingsley as Dr.Cawley. Kingsley’s turn as Dr.Cawley is fantastic if for the sole reason that he seems to be simultaneously benevolent and sinister. Cawley helps Daniels in his quest to track down the murderess, but also seems to be quite guarded and secretive. Just as Daniels may not be terribly trustworthy, the same can be said of Dr.Cawley.

Throughout Shutter Island, you are consistently kept off balance and confronted with much more than the mystery surrounding the disappearance of the murderess that brought Daniels to the island to start the film. The combination of the masterful directing of Scorsese and the solid performances of Kingsley and DiCaprio result in one of the best psychological thrillers released in awhile.