Friday, 12 March 2010

Shutter Island

The latest offering from Scorsese and DiCaprio looks set to be their best yet. Based on the book by Dennis Lehane, this psychological thriller keeps you on your toes throughout and features some of Scorsese's best work yet. But does it come together or is it as lost as well... Lost?

I have to admit, I'm not a huge fan of the Scorsese/DiCaprio partnership. I LOVED Gangs Of New York, but didn't like The Aviator and thought The Departed was everyone wanking on each other's faces. I also have a problem with DiCaprio's acting, this whole broody, tough guy thing doesn't really sit well with me and looks pretty similar in all the films. Just stick him in a different costume. But every now and then he comes out with a corker - and this is one of them. Though in theory, it is still the same as everything I've just said, it just works well here.

The whole point of the narrative is that there are many twists and turns and you're not sure where it is you're going, much like DiCaprio's character, but the general story is that Shutter Island is basically one big asylum. One of the girls in it has gone mysteriously missing but as DiCaprio delves deeper, he doesn't like what he sees...

It's tough to do a review on this film when anything you potentially say could give the game away. I thought I had predicted the outcome about 20 minutes in, but then got stumped again, and came back to it and so on and so forth. For this guessing game alone, it worked wonders on my mind. In fact, even after I left, I felt like I needed to sit down for an hour to really figure it out. Not in a bad way, but in a like 'ahhhh, I seeeeeeee' way. DiCaprio's troubled Teddy is incredible. His flashbacks and dreams are Lynch-esque in quality and full of clues and metaphors. Fire, water and other elements being the main culprit. You could sit and study this film endlessly and this is what makes it close to a classic.

The directing is fantastic and even though Scorsese isn't known for 'horror' (and this film isn't really horror - and yes you could say Cape Fear was horror, or even Taxi Driver etc. etc.), he does amazingly well using horror tricks. With the island being a monster itself and the fast sweeping camerashots, amazing scenery and cinematography you cannot fault - I'd say it works in every positive aspect on Scorsese's entire career into one movie. Everything about the entire place is threatening. But I would not say it's his best film ever.

The film this reminded me of the most, and for more than one reason, was Kubrick's 'The Shining'. Not only is Scorsese's directing very similar, fast shots of what's to come, the lighting, the framework and the general feel, but to me, it almost felt gothic and even noir. It comes as no surprise then that Scorsese made the cast watch Laura and Out Of The Past before shooting as you can feel that vibe pulsing through it. It also deals with the idea of paranoia, government cover-ups and even the Cold War. It also has slight shadows of the latest incidents of Guantanamo Bay - but this might be reading into it a bit too much.

What struck me the most was probably the incredible score by Robbie Robertson (I think it's him). It worked perfectly with every image on the screen - it added a dimension often dismissed in the grander scheme of things and is living proof that a score can help or hinder a film. In this case, it puts it on a whole other level similar to There Will Be Blood.

The acting is flawless and Ben Kingsley ambiguous doctor is perfectly crafted. The story itself blows my mind, the fact that the opening shot of the boat coming through a white fog makes it clear - there's nothing outside this island. You don't know anyone's background, you don't know what's happened or about to happen, it bursts onto the screen and from then on, it's completely relentless.

So why isn't it perfect? Firstly, the ending was great, but I wanted it to disturb me more. But maybe that's just me. It also felt, without giving it away, slightly easy and a little ridiculous. But it still worked. There was so much I loved about it that I maybe felt a bit like I didn't really want it to end. Maybe it could have worked as a TV series? I don't know. But it didn't feel open-ended enough to keep me guessing, neither rounded off enough for me to leave satisfied. It also takes the risk of alienating the audience and maybe making them irritated. But instead I'm in this limbo where I'm like 'I really enjoyed it, but what could have made it better?' and I can't really answer it.

Whatever the case may be, I will definitely watch it again - even just to see it once more now knowing how it ends. But it's a great piece of cinema that proves Scorsese is still one of the best American directors around and with people like Tarantino making, let's be honest, shit, it shows that some people are out there taking chances and showing how it's done, no matter what their age.

Rating: 8/10

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