“Is it better to live as a monster or to die a good man?” Now that’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it? However, that’s not the only question that needs to be answered in the new movie, “Shutter Island.”
From start to finish, “Shutter Island,” directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, dives headfirst into insanity — and takes the audience along for the ride.
In true Scorsese fashion, “Shutter Island” overemphasizes everything: the music, which screams in a high-pitched, cello-esque manner at the most surprising times; the videography, which jumps fiercely from scene to scene at a nearly dizzying pace; the lighting, a black-gray color combination that leaves you feeling depressed and anxious.
It all combines seamlessly to form a narrative that slowly threads you through the story.
Taking place on Shutter Island in 1954, located some 30 miles off the coast of Massachusetts, Teddy Daniels (DiCaprio) and his partner, Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo), are U.S. marshals investigating a woman’s mysterious disappearance. The island plays host to a mental institution, the most perilous of its kind: Only the most dangerous patients, those no other institutions will (or can) handle, reside there.
And that’s only the start of this adventure into the mystery of the human psyche.
The storyline progresses at what could be considered as a painstakingly slow, snail-like pace. However, that’s part of the beauty of “Shutter Island.” Unlike the blockbusters that have dominated the box office the last few months, “Shutter Island” only gradually explains the mysteries of the island, and most of the time you are left in the dark as to what just happened.
Then, shining bouts of clarity pierce through, and you become all too certain of what just happened.
As the audience learns more of the intricate plot, it comes to light that Daniels is not as mentally sound as he first appeared. He’s haunted by the death of his wife, Dolores (Michelle Williams), in bloody, maudlin detail. The past comes back to haunt him in terrifying clarity, leaving him with headaches, nightmares and intense paranoia. Or is that because of the drugs?
Nothing is as it seems on the island. People who should be there are gone. People who should be gone are there. Nobody knows what is going on, yet it seems everyone is in on the secret. The marshals can trust no one, but they have no choice if they are to figure out the truth.
You’re left wondering if maybe you missed something. Chances are, you probably did.
The genius of the movie lies in the increasing shattering of preconceived notions of reality. As the marshals investigate, the boundaries of reality wane and eventually disappear altogether. As the saying goes, one man’s reality is another man’s nightmare.
The movie makes you think, which is more than can be said for “Public Enemies.” The point goes to Mr. Scorsese. Well done.
Four “Where the hell am I?” stars out of five, and a critic’s pick.