Shutter Island – Amended August 14th, 2010
Director: Martin Scorsese
Writer: Laeta Kalogridis (screenplay) Dennis Lehane (novel, also wrote Mystic River)
Genre: American psychological thriller film
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Max von Sydow,
Michelle Williams, Emily Mortimer, Patricia Clarkson
Shutter Island is yet another example of a film where concept and plot overshadow character development and story. Even with a call sheet of top actors, this bloated budget and excessively long film is all surface and hat-tricks; impossibly nonchalant about a premise that is in and of itself too conceited to realize that surprise endings aren’t surprising any more. By the time we arrive anywhere near interesting, the conclusion startles too little too late; perhaps if as much attention to plot devices were paid to believable and interesting performances one might concede Shutter Island to be slightly more interesting than the sum of its parts.
Miss this one even if you feel yourself compelled otherwise.
Amended – August 14th, 2010
After careful consideration, or careless depending on if you’re a half glass full or kinda empty person, I’m amending my original review of this film. I know this film has settled into a spot on the proverbial movie rental store shelf, or in some vast cacophonous warehouse at Netflix waiting for some guy with a Walkman, er, Ipod and headphones to stroll by and pop it in the ‘rented’ basket, but a few further thoughts are in order before I let this one go.
Thanks to Rodney at Fernby Films for sparking the renewed interested and further thoughts. I felt obliged to add a couple of things regarding additional proof that Mr. Scorsese has indeed, very much lost his touch. I’d even be willing to suggest that he hasn’t made a brilliant film since Casino in 1995, though I will admit The Departed was the best of the last fifteen years. To be frank, Frank (Jack Nicholson) elevated this film beyond the sum of its parts and welled deserved the handful of awards he won for his performance. I know Scorsese has replaced Di Niro with DiCaprio as his go-to actor of choice, but I’ve lost my interest and patience in DiCaprio’s fluoride treatment of acting. You know fluoride, the stuff ‘they’ used to add to your drinking water, before they were stopped, the stuff that prevents decay. It’s the main ingredient in toothpaste. You know, that stuff that will kill you if you swallow it?
That being said, my chief complaint with Shutter Island aside from the plot, surface-tooling development of character, and the dark-for-dark sake approach to the cinematography, is the call sheet. I have a difficult time recalling when I’ve seen a movie where so many talented actors were utterly wasted plot-props. The list is as long as my arm; Mark Ruffalo, who has yet to rekindle a notable early career, is a venerable everyman with good looks and vulnerability, something you like and can’t quite express at the same time – lost in his lines as much as the shoddy suit he wore through the movie. And Sir Ben Kingsley – there is something wrong in the movie universe when you relegate a talent like Mr. Kingsley to a sputtering mad-scientist with his very own dark and dim castle to perform experiments of the mind in. Adding insult to injury of epic proportions is to cast Max Von Sydow as a befuddled accomplice in a crime no one bothered to share with him – Sydow, might I remind you, is an ever the capable veteran of the screen who has been working longer than DiCaprio has been alive. And if that weren’t bad enough, you cast the lost, misplaced Michelle Williams who may have been entertaining on Dawson’s Creek but has hardly measured up on the big screen with mediocre, forgettable performances. And just in case you were wondering, the tortured indie darling, Wendy and Lucy did not sit well with me either. Emily Mortimer and Patricia Clarkson were equally employed with lackluster attention and serve hardly more than backup performers on a stage already glutted with too many people. And the final straw, the lasting and final ingredient to this disastrous recipe, was the nearly unrecognizable Elias Koteas who, playing the monster to DiCaprio’s Frankenstein, was never given enough screen time to contribute in any meaningful way to the story.
If the abuse and misuse of such talented actors were not enough for you to steer clear of Shutter Island, you might consider the tag line warning enough “Someone is missing”. Dare I say it was the director?