Sunday, February 21, 2010

Shutter Island (Martin Scorsese, 2010)

This statement could floor someone by its boldness or mean absolutely nothing to those that think he’s done little of value in over a decade – Shutter Island is the best film that Martin Scorsese has made since Casino. Possibly since Goodfellas.

I have no intention of writing a full-scale review, or something approaching the length of some of the posts previously done here. But, being the Scorsese nut that you all know me to be, I couldn’t resist posting something about this highly anticipated release. When I returned from the theater last night and thought about what kind of rating to give Shutter Island, I decided that for the time being I’d throw up an 8/10 to serve as a generic “I liked it, but I need more time to decide what to make of it.” As I expected, I was a bit rash in putting up any kind of rating at all. The film has been running through my mind since I exited the cinema, playing on the seeds of nervousness and terror that are planted throughout its two hours plus running time. The amazing thing – and perhaps the greatest compliment that I can pay to the film – is that despite some admitted predictability in the narrative, the movie remains riveting, and at times downright disturbing, the entire way through.

It can justifiably be classified an “homage film,” as some of the references will be apparent to filmgoers – The Shining, Black Narcissus, Hitchcocks like Vertigo and Psycho, noirs such as Laura. But as Goodfella’s contributor Sam Juliano and I discussed, all of this adds to the pleasure of the entire experience. It is like Marty, being the insatiable movie lover that he is, decided that he wanted to make a movie that combined the finest elements of the films that he has always loved, and just have fun with it. The result is a technical masterpiece. I have praised the excellent work of cinematographer Robert Richardson before, citing his contribution to JFK as one of the main reasons why it remains a favorite film. His work here might even outdo that one, and if it is not worthy of consideration when next year’s awards season arrives then they should just call them all off.

I still have no intention of writing a full length review (for that I’ll point you toward Wonders in the Dark in the next few days), but even in just typing out this short response I’m already going over in my mind how to address the main complaint I keep reading – the red herrings found throughout and being unsubtle in execution of the story. I actually agree that it is not hard to figure a lot of it out, but those that will allow this to ruin the entire experience are completely missing the point. The predictability actually adds to how unsettling everything is. The fact that you can figure out what is likely going on and are then left to watch as it unfolds precisely as predicted, in all of its horrifying glory, is as noir as it gets. The inevitability of it all makes it distressing.

If you’re a fan of Scorsese or any of the films I mentioned earlier, then I urge you to ignore the split critical opinion and get to a theater to see it for yourself. I know I’ll be going back again.

RATING: 9/10


  1. Indeed Dave! I join you in the celebration here. Well overall the reviews are about 2 to 1 favorable, but already there are some nit-picking bloggers who typically need to point out to all of us about the "narrative inconsistencies" as if those of us who were spectacularly entertained an dthrilled really give one iota. This film blows CAPE FEAR out of the water BTW, and it demonstrates that the master continues to showcase some extraordinary fimmaking skills by treating us to some unrelenting tension and some atmospheric set pieces set in one of cinema's most intoxicating rain storms. I loved the Dachau concentation camp flashback structure, and thought Leonardo Di Caprio and a bevy of supporting players were excellent. Bless Patricia Clarkson in that stellar cave scene near the end! I will venture to suggest in the near future that this film is a trap for snobs, and I welcome the backlash too if that should materialize. Ha! Thanks for alluding to the upcoming review at Wonders, which has been reserved by my colleague Bob Clark. But Bob's review, which he tells me will be of the 3.5 of 5 variety won't reflect by wild enthusiasm for this film.

    For a rush job Dave, this is great stuff here!

  2. Thanks, Sam. I look forward to seeing what Bob has to say about it... we know that he will not hold anything back (LOL).

    "I will venture to suggest in the near future that this film is a trap for snobs, and I welcome the backlash too if that should materialize. Ha!"

    I agree!

  3. Didn't get a chance to see it this weekend, but with it being number one at the boxoffice I have no worries. And when you say "best since Casino" that sounds like my kind of benchmark. Yours reads like a creditable recommendation that I should act upon.

  4. Samuel - Yes, I recommend it. My perspective obviously could change in the future, but I don't think I'm going too far in declaring it my favorite of Scorsese's since Casino. Placing it above Casino might be a bit too much as of right now - it's going to have to be able to stand up to repeat viewings as Casino has - but I have a feeling it might. My "Probably since Goodfellas" would have been more accurate with "Possibly since Goodfellas" but either way it reinforces my recommendation.

    And don't get me wrong, I love The Aviator. I just think this one outdoes even that outstanding effort.

  5. Dave, obviously I disagree it's his best since Casino (and you know why), but to everything else you write here all I have to say is "Amen!" Who knew we'd get what I'm sure will be one of the best movies of the year in February. We're so lucky.

  6. I love that he used the piece On the Nature of Daylight by Max Richter during the Michelle Williams turning to ashes scene.....M.Roca

  7. Dave, could you do me a favor and just hold up your hand for a second? Just a second. Yeah, that's good.

    *high fives Dave*

    That's what I'm talking about. I loved the hell out of this movie, more so because they marketed it all wrong as this weird B-movie when really it was a MAGNIFICENT B-movie, in the style of great old genre pictures. I need to watch Vertigo again because of this movie, and that's a hell of a compliment for me.

  8. Doniphon - Yes, I understand your love for Gangs of New York (which I hopefully will get a chance to re-watch this week). Glad to see that we're in agreement on this one.

    M.Roca - That whole sequence was really well done.

    Jake - HAH... good stuff. This one certainly does remind you of classics like Vertigo. Glad to see you stopping by here, don't be a stranger - I just discovered your blog today through Doniphon's will be stopping by.

  9. Well Dave, your enthusiasm really comes across here.

    I won't be able to see this for a month or so but it must be something if you had to interrupt your noir countdown to set this down.

    I'm not a Scorsese fan by any means but you've stoked my enthusiasm a little with this. Thanks.

  10. Scorsese's long time editor Thelma Schoonmaker who has worked with Marty on so many of his great films must be given her due here also. I really want to see this again but am probably going to be foreced to wait until it comes out on DVD.

  11. Well I was greatly impressed with the story of this movie. I have seen it many times and love to watch it again.