When it comes to psychological horror films, Martin Scorsese might not be the first name that pops into your head. Despite that, we know he’s capable of crafting ones with real, palpable suspense, as was shown in 1991’s “Cape Fear.” Unfortunately, “Shutter Island,” Scorsese’s latest foray into the genre, isn’t the pulse-pounding thriller it should have been.
Welcome to Shutter Island, home to an asylum for the criminally insane. When one of the patients living there mysteriously vanishes from her cell, U.S. Marshall Teddy Williams (DiCaprio), along with partner Chuck Aule (Ruffalo), is called in to investigate the disappearance and discover what actually happened. Upon arrival, Williams and Aule receive the standard introduction by Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley) and they’re set upon the case. Yet all is not well on Shutter Island. Williams soon begins seeing visions of his dead wife (Michelle Williams), and he feels he is slowly going insane. Perhaps he is, though. For on Shutter Island, the truth is hard thing to accept.
Despite what others may say about the film’s story, all the actors here are on top of their game. DiCaprio’s manic performance as a man slowly losing his grip on reality is a pleasure to watch. With each movie he’s in, DiCaprio proves why he’s more than just a pretty face. While Ruffalo usually turns in solid performances, he was probably my least favorite actor in the film. Being in DiCaprio’s shadow for the majority of the film didn’t really give him an opportunity to shine, but he was by no means bad, just slightly underwhelming. Kingsley definitely steals the show here. His calm, collected performance as the asylum’s doctor is gripping, and he will have your attention whenever he graces the screen.
The cinematography on display here is wonderful. Scorsese’s use of quick pans makes us feel as if we’re there beside DiCaprio and Ruffalo looking over the asylum. The very location of the mental hospital is beautiful and haunting. A place for the criminally insane is sinister enough, but having it set on a secluded, inescapable island adds a nice touch of claustrophobia to an already unsettling place. The inhabitants are also equally frightening as they all offer their own little piece of insanity and half-baked reasons.
The story itself, though, is where “Shutter” falls apart. Its biggest downfall is the fact that we’ve seen this kind of narrative before, and while Scorsese is able to make it sufficiently atmospheric, that isn’t enough to elevate it beyond a typical mind-bending thriller. What makes it so disappointing is that the audience knows exactly what kind of ending this story is going to have, and it’s a cop out to everything that we’ve seen before it. For once I would like to see a psychological thriller that actually sets out to logically solve the mind-numbing problem it presents instead of flipping its narrative three-quarters of the way through.
One of the other downfalls of this film is the lack of relatability with the characters. Although I was interested in the resolution of the storyline, I wasn’t entirely enthralled by the characters trying to figure it out.
Scorsese has crafted a respectable thriller, but it’s just one that has too many loose ends and is a little too predictable.