Monday, June 13, 2011


Martin Scorsese, 2010
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Max von Sydow, Michelle Williams

The most important thing you can learn about Shutter Island is in the opening line of its Wikipedia entry (though it's since been taken down), which I will quote here: "Shutter Island is the worst movie ever created in the history of time (hyperbole ftw) and anyone involved in said movie should be shot."

Moving back to a totally serious critical standpoint, I couldn't agree more. Aside from exhibiting some of the worst writing I've ever witnessed in my life, Shutter Island is basically the Leonardo DiCaprio show. I think he might be in every shot. He stars as Teddy Daniels, a U.S. Marshall assigned to investigate the disappearance of a dangerous female patient at Shutter Island, a highly guarded psychiatrist facility off the Massachusetts coast near Boston. Teddy and his partner Chuck (the dreadfully boring Mark Ruffalo) are stranded on the island due to a massive hurricane, which brings with it some of the worst CGI and sound effects I've ever seen, and I've seen a lot of feature films on the Sci-Fi channel, to give you a frame of reference. The doctors are unhelpful and it seems that the patients, nurses, and orderlies have been given a response script. The missing patient, Rachel Solando, apparently escaped from her room, though she has left her shoes behind and the door was locked from the outside.

After a frustrating night of hunting down Rachel, she is found, safe as can be, taking a stroll around the island. Because of the storm, Teddy and Chuck are forced to stay and they stumble across more difficult and unsettling questions. Teddy has a number of stupid and tediously long flashbacks about the Holocaust and his dead wife. It appears he has migraines and is a little unstable. He tells Chuck that he's been digging around for information about the Shutter Island asylum and he believes there to be secret, government sanctioned medical testing going on. He plans to use their remaining time to collect evidence and expose the whole sordid affair, comparing the esteemed psychiatrists with Nazi medical experimenters.

AND NOW I'M GOING TO GIVE AWAY THE ENDING BECAUSE I'M SO ANGRY, BUT AT LEAST I'M WARNING YOU ABOUT ALL THE SPOILERS. This is one of the most ridiculous, ham-fisted twists in the history of Western drama. I get angry just thinking about it, though I'm not sure if I'm more angry at the twist or at the fact that this film is a boring piece of shit.

As it turns out, there is no Rachel Solando. Teddy apparently is a patient at the asylum and has been making it all up in his head. The kind, intelligent doctors are performing a radical form of therapy, where they allow Teddy to role play, hopefully waking him from his schizophrenic fog. Teddy's trauma is deeper than Scorsese hopes we initially imagined, but he has become such a bad director that the flashbacks give everything away.

No more spoilers.

Aside from hating the whole movie, it really pisses me off when writers/directors use the Holocaust as a generic dumping ground for personal trauma. It's not to say you can't make a powerful work of art based on this kind of trauma, but, for fuck's sake, make it personal. Just because your character helped liberate Dachau and made a Nazi commandant die in agony doesn't mean he can do whatever the fuck he wants for the rest of the film.

Aside from the inane Mark Ruffalo, the acting is actually pretty good. I have this love-hate relationship with Leonardo DiCaprio, where I think I hate him, love to waste time watching movies he stars in, and then get really angry. I enjoy his early career and actually think he's a good actor, but lately he has a tendency to sign on to projects where he plays the tormented crazy guy with a heart of gold. Ben Kingsley and the great Max von Sydow are in the film for about thirty seconds, which is a waste. There are also a few great cameos. Ted Levine (SILENCE OF THE LAMBS) is in the only scene I actually liked. He threatens to bite Leonardo DiCaprio's eyeball, which would maybe have livened things up a bit. Elias Koteas (CRASH) and Jackie Earle Haley (WATCHMEN) have entertaining bit parts as well.

Shutter Island is so terrible I'm about to start frothing at the mouth. I'm going to go watch Maximum Overdrive to cheer myself up.

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