Sunday, March 14, 2010

Shutter Island

For those of you who haven't seen the movie, I'll make this pretty spoiler free... it has only been out a month or so now.

I'm one of those people that really aren't bothered by hearing someone talk about a movie's ending, or a movie's twists, I figure I'll see it, and I know its coming, not a big deal.  I'm also the same guy that many times will read the last chapter of a book to see which characters are still around, or will go onto Wikipedia to read the synopsis of a movie or television episode while watching it.

That being said, I don't spoil it for most people, as I know most people aren't like me.  However, if its been a while, you don't have a right to get mad if you hear the words "Aaron is actually Roy, and he knows it" or "Dumbledore dies" or "Kevin Spacey IS Kyser Soze" or "Tyler Durden and The Narrator are the same person" or "Sam Beckett never returned home."  Especially "Vader is actually Luke's (and Leia's) daddy".  You had your chance, you should have seen it.  Not my fault.

So, with that in mind, let's discuss "Shutter Island", the newest film from Marty Scorcese, and his fourth collaboration with Leonardo DiCaprio (they also worked together on "Gangs of New York", "The Departed" and "The Aviator").  I'd been seeing previews for this movie much of last year, and it was due to be released late last year.  Paramount Pictures decided they would push back the release date until March of 2010, which usually indicates they have little faith in the picture, especially when it gets moved to the first part of a new year--however, they said that it was because they didn't have the proper budget to market it correctly until this year.

This might have seemed like a put-on, because what else are they going to say?  "This movie is crap, and we are going to throw it into the first part of the year so it will be released, we'll meet our contractual obligations, and then we'll move on."? 

You might remember Warner Brothers did the same thing with "Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince", moving it from November 2008 to July 2009, though they said that with the success of "The Dark Knight" in 2008, they figured they made enough money in '08, and wanted to move the surefire hit Harry Potter to a year when they weren't sure what the incomes would be.  Made sense.

Anyway, to the movie.  Set in 1954, "Shutter Island" opens up with U.S. Marshalls Teddy Daniels and Chuck Aule (an always-reliable Mark Ruffalo, no matter how good or bad the film is) arriving on a boat to an Ashecliff Hospital, a medical prison located on Shutter Island.   A patient named Rachel Solando has disappeared from a locked cell, and the head psychiatrist, Dr. John Cawley (a very creepy Ben Kingsley), explains that Rachel was institutionalized after drowning her three children.

What seems like an open-and-shut case of either a missing person or an escaped prisoner is much more, as it always is in films like this.  When a storm rolls in, forcing Teddy and Chuck to remain on the island much longer than anticipated, they begin to unearth the secrets held by the doctors, the orderlies, even some of the prisoners.  Ashecliff Hospital is not a nice place to be, apparently. 

What seems like a scary horror flick is nothing of the kind.  Its much less a Wes Craven'esque film, or a ghost tale as it is a Hitchcockian tale of suspense and twisty turny endings.  Its filmed dark and drab, the sunlight rarely makes an appearance, and looking past the star turns of DiCaprio, Ruffalo and Kingsley, you'll see several cameos that are both chilling and perfect for the tone of this film--Jackie Earle Haley is all dolled up in a grotesque get-up and is awesome in the far too few seconds they give him.  He's the guy in the trailer that growls, "You're a rat in a maze..."

By the way, did you know that Jackie Earle Haley is going to be Freddy Kruger in the reboot of "A Nightmare on Elm Street"?  There's one of two things I enjoyed about "Watchmen", and its the same person that might make me see that movie, and that's Jackie. 

The other thing I enjoyed about "Watchmen"?   Jeffrey Dean Morgan as "The Comedian".  Wait, Malin Akerman was in that movie too, wasn't she?  Okay, three things. 

Back to the movie... I had a guess how the movie would turn out about the time the ending scene was about to begin, but what threw me was I was expecting another twist.  I thought "oh, there's a twist, but I'm thinking that what I thought to begin with will be true..." and yet, it didn't.  That makes no sense, whatsoever... okay, let's put it this way.  You are watching "The Sixth Sense"--again, if you have never seen this movie, its been 11 years, so if you don't know the ending by now, I can't help you.  Anyway, the movie is ending.  You find out that Bruce Willis' character is actually dead.  This is the kind of twist that happens in "Shutter Island", something that you are like, "Oh, wow... I guess I can kind of see that, now, anyway."  But what if you see something a few minutes later in the movie that makes you think Bruce Willis wasn't dead?   That second twist was what I was expecting in "Shutter Island", but it never came, and that surprised me.

You know what?  Never mind. 

The movie was great, I thought.  There is a dream sequence in the middle of the movie that lasts a little too long, and the film itself goes on about 20 minutes long than it should... its Rated R really for language.  There's a little violence, but none too threatening, and there are lot of people smoking here, but that's because its 1954 and just about everyone smoked in the 50s. 

Bottom line is, its worth a viewing.  I think this is one of the best Scorcese movies to come out in a long, long time, perhaps since "Casino" in 1995.  It's not "Goodfellas", but let's face it, few movies are.

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