Saturday, February 20, 2010

"Shutter Island" (2009) - Movie Review

There can be no mistake in “Shutter Island” that Martin Scorsese has dumbed down himself and it is to let the story be a phenomenal precedence than the character development. The problem though is that it is like making a brain surgeon be an executioner. When the trailer arrived, it was perplexing, why would Scorsese take a film leading to a plot and a story? Having seen a major portion of his filmography, scratching my head I went to the film. I cannot say I was thrilled and I cannot say I was not intrigued. It is a Scorsese film but the suspense was not a suspense.

Clocking nearly a century of film history in the globe, the medium has educated a simple movie goer to the cleverness of a plot. In the living days of movie going experience, the viewer is intelligent but more so is to be doubtful and watchful to be not fooled by the art. Ego plays a role in current movie going experience. To not be left out and to crack the suspense and decode the plot before it summates becomes an ulterior motive. And a more rigorous film freaks like me, ego is least of the troubles in defeating ourselves in the pleasure of being fooled. It is both a curse and a gift. “Shutter Island” leaves cues like that and in the very beginning I sensed the suspense lurking by my shoulder and grinning. I brushed it off but it came back to haunt.

US Marshals Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Chuck (Mark Ruffalo) are coming to the mysterious earth of Shutter Island. There are cops geared up and Teddy and Chuck are set to find the missing inmate from this mental institution. A place for criminally insane, this is where the head of the place will be dubious, devious and have no inclination in providing any details necessary and crucial for investigation. It is Ben Kingsley as Dr. Cawley doing that job. The place of course is as mysterious as it looks. In this land Teddy has headaches and dreams of his dead wife (Michelle Williams). Mind game begins.

Obviously Scorsese wants to create mood but there is a withhold of information every time there is a magical moment between the performances. One such is when fellow psychiatrist Dr. Naehring (Max von Sydow) dissects Teddy’s character and draws conclusion through his history of violence. Teddy coming out of World War - II is fresh off gory images, one such getting played repeatedly in his mind. The countless number of bodies with a mother and child held frozen in the pile is giving him chills consistently. This is a man looking for answers and not here for the investigation alone.

The commentary of violence of Teddy is discussed on and off in precise occasions. After Dr. Naehring’s psychoanalysis, near the end there is Ted Levine as Warden of the institution gives a ride to Teddy. It is a scene belonging to Levine taking such a care in channeling the actual message through hazy discussions to Teddy. And just as when we think the scene is taken completely by Levine, DiCaprio gives a fight back in simply saying “Why don’t you try?” and grimaces getting out of the vehicle. Where are more of those scenes?

Scorsese much as the brain surgeon I compared to, goes into the operating theatre with his team and takes the human carcass to make a painting which is terrifying and beautiful hand in hand. It is not that he loves violence but that is the way his story gets their voices and he wants it to be loud. “Shutter Island” has pieces of those but is not an intimate look on his films. May be I had the wrong expectations out here and I am inclined to question whether this is not a story for the master. But I would be wrong in saying because anything which grabs the instincts of a film maker’s passion shapes itself into what the creator wants it to be. Unfortunately, “Shutter Island” becomes a work of not so much greatness or classical touches of a finesse director.

With some very sincere performances from Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley and Ted Levine, the film does not abuse them but does not rise and shine as it generally does in the films of this legend. Even the darkest and gloomiest characters in his films carry a shining armour and offers a solace of pure joy in watching them destroy themselves. “Shutter Island” is a just enough scary nightmare to wake us up from the sleep. We go back to sleep unhappily.

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