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???)