Shutter Island

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This Catch Up is written by Telaina Eriksen

Year of Release: 2010

Rating: R (for violence and horrific flashbacks to the emancipation of Dachau)

Currently Streaming on Netflix? No (It WAS and now it’s gone. 😦 )

Spoilers? Slightly more than trailer

Here’s the thing about Shutter Island (one of my favorite movies that’s come out in the last five years) you have to make time to watch it twice. The first time through you’ll just be trying to figure out what is really going on in the film. In the second viewing you can pick up all of the clues and foreshadowing screenwriter Laeta Kalogridis and director Martin Scorsese give you. I’m serious here, the second time watching this movie is where the maximum enjoyment is. WATCH THIS MOVIE TWICE.

It’s 1954 and Leonardo DiCaprio plays Teddy Daniels, U.S. Marshal, who comes to Shutter Island, a facility for the criminally insane, with his new partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) to hunt down escaped patient Rachel (Emily Mortimer). Everything feels a little bit off as Daniels and Aule enter the grounds of the facility. The guards are nervous, and there are a LOT of guards. The head psychiatrist Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley) refuses to let the marshals have access to any personnel records. A hurricane is approaching and no one is allowed in Ward C, a former Civil War fort turned high-security prison for the most violent of the violent criminals on Shutter Island. Daniels tries to discover what is going on, but he is plagued by WWII flashbacks. Daniels was one of the United States soldiers to emancipate Dachau and visions of the piles of frozen bodies and starving, tortured survivors flood his mind when he’s under stress. In addition to his obvious PTSD, Daniels dreams of his dead wife, and sometimes even “sees” her while he’s awake. She whispers advice to him and viewers are not quite sure Daniels should be listening to advice from a dream ghost.

The viewer is a little off kilter throughout the entire movie. Part of this is due to the heavy, foreboding soundtrack. Part of it is the physical darkness of the movie—Daniels has to light matches repeatedly as he enters Ward C to get clues as to where Rachel is and what exactly is going on on the island. Part of the off-kilter is the encroaching hurricane, the phones are down and there is no ferry access due to the wild wind and sea. Daniels is suffering from migraines and flashbacks, and Cawley and the other psychiatrist Dr. Naehring (played by Max von Sydow) are definitely hiding something and/or reluctant to talk to Daniels. All of this makes for a fun, suspenseful viewing experience.

The acting in this movie is incredible. DiCaprio is just gold in this. He’s paranoid (maybe rightly so?). He’s deeply sad and stressed. He’s glib, macho and at times, tender. Ruffalo is a calm foil to DiCaprio’s energetic performance and Kingsley is at turns comforting, creepy and confrontational. (I wanted to use some alliteration in this Catch Up, obviously.)

The movie clocks in at two hours and 18 minutes and it flies by. There are actually “two” endings to the movie—even if you saw the first one coming, you may not see the second one coming. I haven’t read Dennis Lehane’s book so obviously those of you who have will have some inside scoop. This movie is a lot of fun (and also quite sad and disturbing in parts) and if you love a good thriller, you want to put this on your rent list. (And you’ll never hear the words “Baby, why are you all wet?” again without a shudder. See what I did there???)

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The Fall

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This Catch Up is written by Telaina Eriksen

Year of Release: 2013

Rating: TV MA (for nudity and some seriously creepy murders)

Currently Streaming on Netflix? Yes

Spoilers? Mild

Once again cheating here at the Catch Up to talk about TV—this time the BBC drama The Fall, starring the incomparable Gillian Anderson, who grows more compelling to watch with each passing year. Several friends had recommended The Fall to me but I was a bit leery after it took me over six months to work my way through Dexter. I wasn’t sure I wanted to enter the world of serial killers again so soon. I’m certainly glad I did because this impeccable drama isn’t about catching a different serial killer every episode—it’s about catching ONE serial killer in Belfast.

Eleven episodes are available on Netflix and they are one hour each. This is a very manageable binge if you are binge-minded (especially you college kids because hello FINALS WEEK).

Anderson stars at Detective Superintendent Stella Gibson, who has been brought into review a murder that remains unsolved after 28 days. A few days into her investigation, Gibson notices a link between the murder she is reviewing and a previous Belfast murder. At the same time we see Gibson begin putting together the pieces of the two murders, we also meet Paul Spector (played by Jamie Dornan—who I guess plays Christian Grey in 50 Shades of Grey? Ick!). Spector is a grief counselor, husband and father of two, and he also happens to be killing the attractive, dark-haired, professional women of Belfast whenever the mood strikes him. I just icked 50 Shades of Grey but Dornan is really incredible in this show—handsome, charming, homicidally angry and obsessive, but yet at the same time, tender with his children. The character of Spector is all the more terrifying because the show takes time to develop him, it doesn’t just pass two quick brush strokes and call him a monster.

As the series goes on, Spector sees Gibson and becomes obsessed with her—even though she is not “his type.” In one particularly haunting episode, Spector steals Gibson’s diary and begins to play mind games with her.

Gibson is a wonderful character, at turns hard-headed and vulnerable. When she discovers a video on Spector’s phone of one of the women he has kidnapped and tortured, she begins to cry silently. Viewing her tears, I didn’t know if she was crying out of empathy, because she had failed to catch him before this happened, or because she was angry and upset. Regardless, it was a deeply moving scene.

After years of watching police dramas where white males solve crimes but surround themselves with a “team” of women and people of color as tokens, I cheered as Gibson over and over again confronts the sexism of her boss, the media, and the other investigators. “Someone once told me men fear women because women might laugh at them,” Gibson says. “But women fear men because men might kill them.” Gibson also is quite frank about her desire for sex, but not relationships, with men. At one point her boss (who Gibson slept with once, years ago) tells her that he would have done anything for her, including leave his wife and family. “That,” Gibson responds, “Would have been a mistake.”

Another thing I really enjoy about this show is the fact that each of Spector’s victims is a fully developed person and character in the drama. It is not a show that focuses on the disposability of the unnamed woman.

Sometimes when Netflix coughs up its recommendations for “strong female lead” I roll my eyes because it seems like it’s more of a recommendation of “Look! Here’s a woman who gets some serious screen time in this particular TV Show!” But The Fall truly showcases Anderson’s amazing talent and is a creepy pleasure to watch.

Note: Season Two on Netflix ends on a cliffhanger but Season Three has been ordered and should come to the United States later in 2015.

Another Note: Anderson’s British accent is pretty legit—she lived in England for a large portion of her childhood. She also lived in Grand Rapids, Michigan. For some reason, she doesn’t mention that as much.