Sunday, February 21, 2010

Scorsese Scores with Shutter Island

Let me start by saying that if this film came out in November of 2009 as originally planned, I would argue that this movie deserved serious consideration as Best Picture of 2009. As it stands, this film is currently the best film to be released in 2010, but seeing as it is February, that isn't saying much.

I've been watching a lot of Olympics lately, so let me put it this way, it reminds me of watching Downhill Skiing, the first skier could have a great run, but since there are still so many skiers to go, you just feel like there is little chance that the great run will hold up for the gold.

Coming out in February and winning the Best Picture of the Year is very rare, but it isn't unprecedented. In fact, a film that is very similar in tone and type to Shutter Island, did it in 1991.

Shutter Island, like Silence of the Lambs before it, is a psychological thriller, a film about the human mind and the horrors that humans are capable of because of it.

The Island on which all of the action takes place is almost a character itself, as Scorsese and Robert Richardson get all that they can out of the beautiful but harsh and deadly environs of the Island.

The actors are all superb, Ben Kingsley and Max von Sydow are sufficently creepy and ominous as the doctors in charge of the mental institution placed on the Island. John Carrol Lynch (who is so likable as Marge's husband in Fargo [Blu-ray]) plays the role of the deputy warden with such perfection that it is impossible for you to get a handle on where he stands or what he is up to. Mark Ruffalo gives a great understated performance as DiCaprio's partner and matches him throughout the film.

As for Leonardo DiCaprio, in each film that he has made with Scorsese (Gangs of New York (Two-Disc Collector's Edition),The Aviator [Blu-ray], and The Departed [Blu-ray]) you see more and more how this partnership is developing as they learn to work into each other's strengths more and more, much like watching DeNiro and Scorsese early in their respective careers. Shutter Island marks the culmination of the partnership, just as Raging Bull [Blu-ray] did for DeNiro and Scorsese's partnership. In each of the previous three films, I thought that DiCaprio did a fantastic job, but in each of them I wouldn't have argued if some other actor had been in the role. After seeing this movie, and the performance that Leo gives in it, I can't imagine another actor in the role. DiCaprio owned it that completely. It was an amazing performance.

The story isn't anything too new or surprising in the psychological thriller genre, but it is rarely handled this expertly. Coming from a novel by Dennis Lehane (who also provided the story for films like Mystic River [Blu-ray] and Gone Baby Gone [Blu-ray], as well as wrote for television's masterpiece The Wire: The Complete Series) and given to us by Martin Scorsese, even tried and true genre moments feel fresh and surprising.

Overall, I think that this is a film that will reward multiple viewings, as it is masterly put together from the very first sounds over the Paramount opening to the final frame.

But, really, did you expect anything less from Martin Scorsese?

Until Next Time, I'm interested to see how the year in film plays out, rather or not there is a stronger film still to race down the mountain.

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