Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Max von Sydow, Michelle Williams (with Emily Mortimer and Patricia Clarkson)

Director: Martin Scorsese

I've seen more appetizing opening scenes than Leonardo DiCaprio barfing his guts up, but it all gets easier to swallow from there in Martin Scorsese's mystery thriller, Shutter Island. Without giving too much away, there is red herring after red herring, until it all starts to smell pretty fishy toward the end, when the rug is pulled--not abruptly but gradually--out from under the viewer. At this point you may either go "BOOOO" or "BRAVO" (as I did) because I have to hand it to a movie that outsmarts me, and Shutter Island did. But then, I'm easily fooled--just ask my former girlfriends.

It's 1954, and U.S. marshal Teddy Daniels, (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his partner, Chuck, (Mark Ruffalo) show up at an isolated hospital for the criminally insane in Boston Harbor, to investigate the disappearance of a dangerous female inmate. They meet the enigmatic Dr. Cawley, (Ben Kingsley) and Dr. "could he be a former Nazi?" Naehring (Max von Sydow).

Dr. Naehring seems to enjoy playing mind games with Daniels, who was part of the liberation force at Dachau. Daniels has flashbacks of Nazis, and his murdered wife, Dolores, (Michelle Williams) who appears and speaks to him throughout the film. The intrepid lawmen keep running into roadblocks in their attempted investigation--the doctors are stonewalling them--leading to suspicions of a government cover up of ghoulish experiments being conducted on inmates. Events increasingly spin out of control, and there is a foreboding sense that the federal agents may have to fight to get out of this spook house in one piece.

Shutter Island is a scary flick, but it relies less on gore and more on a creeped-out feeling of what MIGHT be lurking just around the corner. Like this haunted house I went to once of a Halloween from my deep dark past. There weren't gobs of ghosties and goblins popping out every ten feet--there was just this one Frankenstein guy who would suddenly appear at the end of a long corridor, and would slowly begin tottering toward you. We ran, but everywhere we ended up he would be there again, and we couldn't find our way out of the place. My girlfriend peed her pants.