By the end of Shutter Island, I didn’t know if I wanted to cry or start screaming. I did both over the duration of the film, but the finale was more than that—it was like a punch in the chest. I mean that in the best of ways, because Shutter Island is a movie you have to see. And I can’t really tell you anything about it.
Why can’t I tell you anything about it? Because anything I tell you is going to give something away, and I don’t want to ruin anything. No one ruined it for me; I refuse to ruin it for my readers. Instead, I will tell you, it was a mystery. It was thrilling. It was disturbing. It was…Scorsese. I’ve been disturbed by good old Martin before. (Can you say The Departed? Gangs of New York? ) And what do these uber-disturbing films also have in common? Leonardo DiCaprio.
What can I say about Leo? I was amidst the millions upon millions of young women who swooned over Romeo and Juliet and Titanic. I knew he was a sort of good actor back then. Today, I can say three things about the guy: 1) He’s not only good. Leonardo DiCaprio may beat out the likes of Robert De Niro and Al Pacino in the “I-play-characters-who-disturb-Sara-Dobie” roles. He is an outstanding actor. After Shutter Island, he may be in my top five. 2) He ain’t gettin’ any better looking. In fact, he’s starting to look like he needs more sleep and maybe some time in the sun. 3) The boy can’t grow facial hair, and yet, he lives under the delusion that he can.
Okay, sorry, back on the topic of the actual film.Since I can’t tell you anything about the plot, I’ll tell you about the actors. As I said, Leo is … I would say Oscar-worthy, but after this year, I don’t have much faith in Oscars. Instead, I’ll say, he’s Oscar-worthy, circa Al Pacino, 1973, Supporting Actor Nomination. Ben Kingsley is the dude you just immediately assume is bad, and he’s perfect. Michelle Williams, as the ghost of a dead wife, has solidified herself in my head as the sad spouse of a missing husband, and again, DANG IT, I can’t tell you what makes her so impressive in this role because it’ll give stuff away. You just gotta see it. Finally, Shutter Island takes place at an asylum for the criminally insane, and I swear, the casting call had to say, “Look like a total psychopath? We want you!” The crazies looked the way we think crazies should, and the world of Shutter Island would be seriously lacking without their bloodshot eyes and scarred flesh.
Martin Scorsese is a master of camera angles and imagery. The quality of multiple scenes in Shutter Island is dream-like (nightmare-like?), and even the most horrendous flashbacks of World War II concentration camps and bloody kid corpses had a disconcerting beauty about them. I suppose that’s why I have one criticism … and it’s no one’s fault but my own. I was so busy waiting for a “twist,” I feel like I missed out on some of the more excellent shots and Leo freaked-out-faces. This, as I said, is a fault of my own. I’ve seen one too many Sixth Sense spin-offs, and I tend to dig too deep, too fast, and in turn, miss out on nuances that would have given the mystery away from scene one—if only I’d told myself to shut the heck up and watch the dang movie.
In the immortal words of Dr. Frank-N-Furter, “A mental mind f@#% can be nice.” He’s right; it can be nice. It can also make you afraid to close your eyes at night. For me, Shutter Island did just that.