Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo
Direction: Martin Scorsese
Unarguably, Martin Scorsese ranks among the pre-eminent directors of contemporary American cinema. This psychological thriller marks the fourth collaboration between him and Leonardo DiCaprio, his lead actor from Gangs of New York, The Aviator and The Departed.
Disappointingly, however, the 68-year-old icon seems to be out sorts with Shutter Island.
But if you are willing to overlook the sporadic dramatic lapses, then chances are that you might actually find the genre exercise engaging enough.
Set in 1954, the Boston-based pulp fiction focuses on a detective (DiCaprio) who’s summoned to a high-security hospital for the criminally insane to investigate the mysterious disappearance of one of the inmates.
Accompanied by his new partner (Ruffalo), the duo interrogates the patients, staff and head psychiatrist (Ben Kingsley, appropriately enigmatic) of the forbidding facility.
The case soon starts to take some bizarre twists. The investigation gets bogged down with the detective hero himself slipping deeper and deeper into paranoid anxiety.
He is plagued by terrifying visions of the death of his beloved wife (Michelle Williams) and the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp towards the end of World War II. The hallucinatory flashbacks are rendered with frenzied fervor.
Some of the narrative strands are vague if not altogether manipulative. It’s quite obvious from the get-go that the protagonist seems to be harboring a dark secret.
Sporting a trench coat, fedora and tough-guy attitude, Leonardo DiCaprio gets under the skin of his character with utter conviction. Wonderful cameos come from Max von Sydow as a sinister shrink and Jackie Earle Haley as a disfigured prisoner.
Scorsese, who has been weaned on Hollywood cinema, crams the narrative with references to the classic film noirs of the 1940s and ’50s.
Shutter Island may be heavy going at times, yes, but it’s still well worth a visit.