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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
15
Cast
Leonardo DiCaprio
Mark Ruffalo
Ben Kingsley
Emily Mortimer
Michelle Williams
Max Von Sydow
Jackie Earle Haley.
Directors
Martin Scorsese.
Screenwriters
Laeta Kalogridis.
Running Time
138 minutes

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Shutter Island
The World’s Greatest Film Director™ has taken over the asylum….


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Plot
1954. US Marshal Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) travels to an offshore asylum for the criminally insane with his new partner Chuck (Mark Ruffalo). Daniels is supposedly investigating the mysterious disappearance of a murderess from her cell, but also wants to confront Andrew Laeddis (Elias Koteas), an imprisoned arsonist he believes was responsible for the death of his wife (Michelle Phillips). On the island, Daniels comes to believe senior psychologists Cawley (Ben Kingsley) and Naehring (Max von Sydow) are involved in unethical experiments and a conspiracy to cover up the fate of Laeddis.


Review
Shutter Island
Most directors who got their start with Roger Corman kicked off their careers with some sort of a horror film – Francis Coppola made Dementia 13, Peter Bogdanovich made Targets, Joe Dante made Piranha. Atypically, Martin Scorsese’s apprentice exploitation work was a gangster picture, Boxcar Bertha. Though Scorsese has often expressed admiration for movie fantasists from Michael Powell through Mario Bava to Hammer Films, he has made only two films with supernatural themes, both religious rather than horrific: the Devil, of course, appears in The Last Temptation of Christ, while benign reincarnation is central to Kundun. And yet, few filmmakers have expressed the nightmarish so well or so often, as demonstrated by such descents into madness or urban hell as Taxi Driver, The King of Comedy, After Hours and Bringing Out the Dead.

Shutter Island, from the novel by Dennis Lehane, is the nearest thing to a horror film Scorsese has made since Cape Fear. Its story of criminal investigation turns in on itself as the detective hero suffers from contradictory flashbacks – which run to very nasty WWII experiences during the liberation of a concentration camp and a bad marriage which came to a gruesome end on the shore of what looks like Crystal Lake from the Friday the 13th films -- and drug-induced hallucinations. All this is footnoted by favourite moments from the school of fright founded by producer Val Lewton at RKO in the 1940s: a walk through a dark corridor of cages, as insane arms clutch at the protagonist, restages a classic shock scene from Mark Robson’s Bedlam, which Scorsese once thought of remaking, while a disturbingly unsafe spiral staircase is a dead ringer for the one in Robert Wise’s The Haunting.

Though the US Marshals played by Leonardo DiCaprio (now as central to Scorsese’s filmic universe as De Niro or Keitel) and Mark Ruffalo sport film noir hats and tough guy attitudes, they are forced to surrender their guns before they are allowed to enter an insane asylum which is also a haunted castle – passing out of a hardboiled mystery into a full-on gothic melodrama which includes a creepy turn from genre fixture Max von Sydow as the sort of shrink who reminds the hero of his bad experiences with Nazis, an Agatha Christie-style locked room mystery, a sinister lighthouse which doubtless harbours dreadful secrets and a spectacular thunderstorm out of The Old Dark House or King Lear. Ben Kingsley plays the eccentric head of the asylum, a character type we’ve learned not to trust since Dr Caligari, and brings some welcome, sly humour to his barbed chats with the hero, especially when he seems to be scheming to cover up unethical experiments or lamenting the damage done to his beloved car.

Officially the best filmmaker in the world, Scorsese enjoys himself here in a way he hasn’t since Cape Fear: there is depth to the story, but not quite enough to sustain all the mysterioso effects. Lehane’s novel has one of those tricky plots which keeps pulling the rug out from under hero (and the reader) – it would even count as a spoiler to give away which parts Patricia Clarkson, Emily Mortimer and Jackie Earle Haley play, and several everything-you-assume-is-wrong moments are set up by some scrupulously fair clue-dropping (the key to one puzzle is in the synopsis – so start thinking: you’ll need a pen and paper to work it all out). A possible problem with this is that, on one level, the film you think you’re watching for the first hour or so might be more satisfying than the one eventually delivered when all the answers are given – though Scorsese adds a tiny final ambiguity that restores a little of the magic.


Verdict
DiCaprio delivers a startling prettyboy-to-tough nut makeover – but he has to play it close to his chest here for the storyline to play out. Once you get past the trickery, Shutter Island offers sumptuous, enthralling, shivery gothic filmmaking with a hardboiled heart and a sly line in asylum humour. If a pot is being boiled, at least it’s an intricately-decorated pot on a spectacular fire.


Reviewed by Kim Newman


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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Shutter Island
Empire Star Rating

"Which would be worse... to live as a monster, or to die as a good man?"

Some viewers (and certainly critics) have taken offence with the film's twist ending, but it works surprisingly well. Brooding and brilliant, Shutter Island is a flawlessly crafted mystery that dares to peer into the dark hollows of a troubled soul. So disarm, give yourself over to it, and marvel at Scorsese's genius as well as the remarkable DiCaprio in a performance that should have earned him an Oscar nomination. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by movienut707 at 01:28, 11 October 2013 | Report This Post


Officially the best film maker in the world -

Don't make me laugh - Maybe once but he hasn't made a great film in over 20 years - Another case of living off past glories - As for Shutter Island a very average 3 satars - ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by bobbyperu at 11:40, 12 November 2012 | Report This Post


Shutter Island

Not one of Scorseses best work, but Shutter Island is hypnotic, thrilling, mind-boggling, and just plain crazy! Much credit must go to DiCaprio and Kingsley's performances and screenwriter Laeta Kalogridis grand transition from book to screen. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by norgizfox at 03:28, 09 July 2012 | Report This Post


Better The Second Time Around?

I was not impressed the first time I saw it. Perhaps it's because I've come to expect so much from Scorsese each and every time out? Whatever the case, I gave this one another chance on Netflix the other night and thoroughly enjoyed it the second time around. Worth another go if you were disappointed initially. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Turd Ferguson at 17:47, 23 January 2012 | Report This Post


RE: A Bit Generic

Shutter Island is unpredictable. One of the best thrillers I've seen in a long time. ... More

Posted by davestack at 16:41, 03 May 2011 | Report This Post


RE: A Bit Generic

Shutter Island OOOOOOM! OOOOOM! OOOOOOM! A very melodramatic, overblown start (the above is the foreboding, reallyscore as Leo approaches the Island at the beginning) turns into a rather good psycho-thriller. Not going to say a word about the plot as saying anything might spoil, so suffice to say, it's a good 'un. Atmospheric, tense, twisty, with a satisfying ending. Very good. 8/10 ... More

Posted by KeithM at 00:06, 03 May 2011 | Report This Post


A Bit Generic

How many psychological thrillers have their been where everything is not as it seems and the viewer is dragged through a cacophony of confusing clues, dream sequences and misdirection before we finally learn the true reality at the end? Its all been done before. My wife and I did see the ending coming....we even established Daniels' true identity. I fell asleep towards the end and not even DiCaprio could save Scorsese's latest effort. On a side note, Scorsese makes solid, often gritty and... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Hillsman at 13:03, 05 April 2011 | Report This Post


Brill

This is by far one of Scorseses finest films. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by the film man at 11:22, 06 March 2011 | Report This Post


Brill

This is by far one of Scorseses finest films. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by the film man at 11:22, 06 March 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Shutter Island

This is a very good film, have watched it 3 nights in a row now & it's great to spot the little clues along the way that should really be obvious to the final twist (to a certain degree anyway, not the full 'why the wife did it' story). Might watch it again later ... More

Posted by pauljthomas at 11:25, 23 February 2011 | Report This Post


Shutter Island

Completely disappointed. Genuinely surprised by all the positive reviews. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Tech_Noir at 16:56, 30 December 2010 | Report This Post


I really enjoyed this. It's one of the great pleasures in cinema to be taken on a journey, thrown about the place and then feel the need to watch it all over again once the full story unfolds. As with all good twists, there are those that want to say they guessed from the start, but i say why deprive yourself of one of the best feelings in cinema. Just sit back and enjoy. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by naturalbornciller at 21:00, 04 November 2010 | Report This Post


Excellent. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by reminn at 11:57, 03 November 2010 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

L: Deviation L: hatebox While the twist of this film was more predictable than most, a lot of people seem to confuse 'knowing that something's up' with 'knowing exactly what's going to happen'.hen everyone said they saw the Prestige twist coming: no, you just knew that nothing is what it seemed because that was the implicit tone set by the film. ote] Only it did becuase the clues being left by the film were as overt and obvious as in this one. accepting all that Dev,t... More

Posted by BOHEMIANBOB at 21:58, 25 October 2010 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

L: hatebox While the twist of this film was more predictable than most, a lot of people seem to confuse 'knowing that something's up' with 'knowing exactly what's going to happen'.hen everyone said they saw the Prestige twist coming: no, you just knew that nothing is what it seemed because that was the implicit tone set by the film. ote] Only it did becuase the clues being left by the film were as overt and obvious as in this one. ... More

Posted by Deviation at 21:26, 25 October 2010 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

While the twist of this film was more predictable than most, a lot of people seem to confuse 'knowing that something's up' with 'knowing exactly what's going to happen'. Like when everyone said they saw the Prestige twist coming: no, you just knew that nothing is what it seemed because that was the implicit tone set by the film.  ... More

Posted by hatebox at 19:01, 25 October 2010 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

Well the glass scene isnt a trick if you understand the sequence before it. After the first dream you have a scene with Dr Cawley, then the scribbling with breene then a shot with a nurse and a tray of needles then the glass 'trick' with Ms Kearns. Its a bit like dot to dot and you can track this back all the way to the beginning with the boat coming out of the fog towards an island with an disused light house, precursors ftw :D ... More

Posted by properdave at 16:57, 25 October 2010 | Report This Post


Epic

Great cast, great setting and an ending that will have you in equal awe and frustration Shutter Island is an epic. Although Dicaprio deilvers a pitch perfect performance yet again the real star of the show is the sound track. The level of tension sustained throughout this film is astonishing and you dare not breath to heavily let alone munch on some popcorn for fear of missing a single second. The asylum feels all to real and the unique pacing really gets you involved in the whole mystery and ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Zayd Awan at 16:36, 25 October 2010 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

L: properdave I agree the film is amazing, but it isn't ambigious. This is one of the points i was trying to make, there are no tricks in the film: the scribbling, the glass, the walls, the hurricanes of paper are all there in front of your nose. Therefore it is this huge variation in what people are or are not seeing which causes the ambigiouty, that and Scorsese being too bloody good. You mention Inception, which is very similar, but much more accessable because everyone is seeing it... More

Posted by BOHEMIANBOB at 09:47, 25 October 2010 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

I agree the film is amazing, but it isn't ambigious. This is one of the points i was trying to make, there are no tricks in the film: the scribbling, the glass, the walls, the hurricanes of paper are all there in front of your nose. Therefore it is this huge variation in what people are or are not seeing which causes the ambigiouty, that and Scorsese being too bloody good. You mention Inception, which is very similar, but much more accessable because everyone is seeing it in the same way. ... More

Posted by properdave at 01:09, 25 October 2010 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

I will respectfully disagree!!! Much like Inception,the first time i seen this film,i thought i "got it". Then i wasn't sure. Then i spoke to other people,Then i was even more unsure. So i seen both again. At no point did i feel disconnected or didn't enjoy the film.Indeed for both films,it was the second time of viewing i was looking for the trick moments(the glass,the closing walls).The first time i was blown away.Completely. And bloody impressed by the collective performances. ... More

Posted by BOHEMIANBOB at 00:47, 25 October 2010 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

First off i have to say i love everything about this film, the music, the colour, the acting and all the themes. There is soo much to enjoy in this film I don't think it matters a great deal if you figure out the plot early. Anyway here's my literary bit: Shutter Island a film which was supposed to take all the perplexity and subtlety of Mystic River, add them to the glamour and ingenious of The Departed and create a masterpiece. What we received was a film that delighted the egghead... More

Posted by properdave at 00:05, 25 October 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Another Scorsese Classic

L: BOHEMIANBOB L: bozo Well-made. And that's about it. Otherwise predictable and quite ridiculous at times, which I guess was the point... so good work! Di Caprio blew the retrospective scene at the end though. It just seemed forced and flat. Ditto the ending. But I enjoy it when critically acclaimed directors go shamelessly, tastelessly gothic, like Kubrick with The Shining and Coppola with Dracula. ree with the last bit about directors going gothic-but the true sense and f... More

Posted by bozo at 17:24, 23 October 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Another Scorsese Classic

L: bozo Well-made. And that's about it. Otherwise predictable and quite ridiculous at times, which I guess was the point... so good work! Di Caprio blew the retrospective scene at the end though. It just seemed forced and flat. Ditto the ending. But I enjoy it when critically acclaimed directors go shamelessly, tastelessly gothic, like Kubrick with The Shining and Coppola with Dracula. ree with the last bit about directors going gothic-but the true sense and feeling of this film a... More

Posted by BOHEMIANBOB at 00:20, 23 October 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Another Scorsese Classic

Well-made. And that's about it. Otherwise predictable and quite ridiculous at times, which I guess was the point... so good work! Di Caprio blew the retrospective scene at the end though. It just seemed forced and flat. Ditto the ending. But I enjoy it when critically acclaimed directors go shamelessly, tastelessly gothic, like Kubrick with The Shining and Coppola with Dracula. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by bozo at 00:03, 22 October 2010 | Report This Post


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