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  Shutter Island Differently Sane
Year: 2010
Director: Martin Scorsese
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Max von Sydow, Michelle Williams, Emily Mortimer, Patricia Clarkson, Jackie Earle Haley, Ted Levine, John Carroll Lynch, Elias Koteas, Robin Bartlett, Christopher Denham, Nellie Sciutto, Joseph Sikota
Genre: Horror, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 2 votes)
Review: Federal Marshall Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) is on the ferry to Shutter Island and suffering seasickness on the journey. After cleaning up, he makes his way out on deck to meet his partner, Chuck Aule ([Mark Ruffalo), and they chat about the case they have undertaken, which Teddy has personal reasons for getting involved with. They are there to track down an escaped patient from a maximum security hospital for the criminally insane on the island, and when they arrive they are escorted by the Deputy Warden (John Carroll Lynch), who takes their weapons and warns them the residents can be dangerous - but Teddy doesn't realise how dangerous...

The biggest hit of famed director Martin Scorsese's career was this twisty-turny thriller that saw him reunited, once again, with DiCaprio, a combination that he was patently very comfortable with and had paid dividends at the box office accordingly. It was based on Dennis Lehane's novel, and took as its inspiration Gothic melodrama, both in the way it was presented and in the direction of the plot, which tended to separate viewers into those who took the events to mean one thing, while others who mistrusted that interpretation and preferred a more conspiratorial take on what was supposed to be going on.

Basically, if you liked a good conspiracy theory then you were unlikely to go along with what head doctor at the institution John Cawley (Ben Kingsley) told Teddy at the end. If, on the other hand, you were more pragmatic in your scepticism, then the opposite would be true, almost as if the story were created as some kind of personality test to distinguish two distinct types: by the end you may feel as if you'd been experimented on yourself, in the name of entertainment of course. Teddy's real reason for taking this case is that the man who murdered his wife in a pyromaniac attack is one of the inmates, and he hopes to have some kind of confrontation with him, yet once he gets embroiled with the shady goings-on there he finds there's more than meets the eye.

It could also be that Scorsese was influenced by that subgenre of psychiatry and psychology movies that emerged from the forties onwards, as a fair few of them had mental hospital settings, and were often just as preposterous as the narrative we're offered here. Various things start to happen the moment Teddy and Chuck walk through the gates that make them both highly suspicious of the real motives of the staff there. He is stifling the trauma of liberating Dachau back when he was a soldier, and of the loss of his wife, as killed, he thinks, by the firebug, but the longer he stays in the institution the more those memories surface, to the stage where he is suffering hallucinations.

It doesn't take Sigmund Freud to work out that Teddy might not be as sane as he thought he was, but even he would not be prepared for the experiments being carried out on Shutter Island, which our protagonist starts to deduce may well have something to do with subjecting the patients to mind control techniques. Two intriguing threads emerge here: first, where the possibility that the good guys can be as capable of as much atrocity as the bad guys, only they have better excuses to explain their corruption, and that the moment people think you're crazy, they won't believe a word you say, in spite of how much you may be telling the truth. But just as you're settling in for something audacious, you're asked to swallow that twist, which proves the doctors were indeed carrying out experiments, but not what Teddy had supposed. This leaves a strangely hollow tone to the film, as no matter how far it goes into suppressed hysteria, it never seems quite sane itself, even when it intends to be.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Martin Scorsese  (1941 - )

American writer and director who emerged as one of the brightest and most vital of the generation of filmmakers who came to prominence during the 1970s with his heartfelt, vivid and at times lurid works. After deciding against joining the priesthood, he turned to his other passion - movies - and started with short efforts at film school until Roger Corman hired him to direct Boxcar Bertha.

However, it was New York drama Mean Streets that really made Scorsese's name as a talent to watch, and his succeeding films, Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (which won Ellen Burstyn an Oscar and is the only Scorsese movie to be made into a sitcom) and the cult classic Taxi Driver (starring Robert De Niro, forever associated with the director's work) only confirmed this.

Unfortunately, his tribute to the musical New York, New York was a flop, and he retreated into releasing concert movie The Last Waltz before bouncing back with boxing biopic Raging Bull, which many consider his greatest achievement. The rest of the eighties were not as stellar for him, but The King of Comedy and After Hours were cult hits, The Color of Money a well-received sequel to The Hustler and The Last Temptation of Christ kept his name in the headlines.

In the nineties, Scorsese began with the searing gangster saga Goodfellas, and continued with the over-the-top remake of Cape Fear before a change of pace with quietly emotional period piece The Age of Innocence. Casino saw a return to gangsters, and Kundun was a visually ravishing story of the Dalai Lama. Bringing Out the Dead returned to New York for a medical tale of redemption, and Gangs of New York was a muddled historical epic.

Still the Best Director Oscar eluded him, but the 2000s gave what many saw as his best chance at winning. Slick Howard Hughes biopic The Aviator didn't make it, but remake of Infernal Affairs The Departed finally won him the prize. Outlandish thriller Shutter Island then provided him with the biggest hit of his career after which he surprised everyone by making family film Hugo - another huge hit.

This was followed by an even bigger success with extreme broker takedown The Wolf of Wall Street, and a return to his religious origins with the austere, redemption through torture drama Silence. Despite being an advocate of the theatrical experience, he joined forces with Netflix for The Irishman, reuniting him with De Niro for one last gangster epic. He also directed Michael Jackson's Bad music video.

 
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