Director: Martin Scorsese Release Date: 12 March Review by Tara Judah There is an intense artificiality to the visual quality of the opening shots of Shutter Island (2010). It’s so artificial in fact, that for just the briefest moment, it seems Scorsese has lost his eye. But, of course, he hasn’t. And contemplating his abrasive use of green screen lasts no more than the moment it takes to recall the title, Spy Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004), before it quickly passes. This is the first of many beautiful, and subtle, moments that Scorsese lets linger in the viewer’s mind as they are taken to Shutter Island; a place where poignant, broken experience resides. Teddy Daniels, well performed by Leonardo DiCaprio, is a US Marshal, sent to Shutter Island to investigate the unexplained disappearance of dangerous patient, Rachel Solande. But once inside the gates of Shutter Island’s mental institution, Daniels uncovers a series of clues about Rachel that lead him unexpectedly all the way back to himself. Daniels’ is the archetypal detective, strong, defiant, resourceful, though fettered and embittered by his past. His encounters with head of psychiatry, Dr Crawley, expertly played by Ben Kingsley, are lessons in attitudinal approach to the criminally insane; Crawley explains that they treat ‘patients’ not ‘prisoners’ and describes his work as, “a moral fusion between law and order and clinical care”. Such careful terminology is the first of many instances in which Shutter Island moves beyond the strict narrative driven confines of the Hollywood blockbuster and knocks on the door of interesting, ethical cinema. The longer Daniels spends on Shutter Island the more intense the haunting visions of his wife and a mysterious dead girl become a confusing mix of hallucination, memory and nightmare. As he destabilizes, unsure who to trust or what to believe, true moments from his past slowly break through revealing the film’s greatest point of intrigue. Having served at the end of the World War II, Daniels recalls watching, and enabling, a Nazi commander’s slow and painful death, along with the vision of so many dead bodies and too many drawn faces in the world’s most horrific historical atrocity. The simultaneous inter-cut images of the young girl who haunts Daniels, and who repeatedly tells him, “you could have saved us”, are genuine moments of cinematic sincerity as a series of careful, thoughtful mirroring between Daniels’ denial of his own past and the world’s responsibility to remember and acknowledge the Holocaust ensues. Daniels’ struggle with the memory and guilt that accompany such comments as, “I killed a lot of people in the war”, is just the tip of the iceberg and a nod towards what is his true internal ethical dilemma. Daniels must decide whether or not he believes in choice or divine nature, his resolve, “There’s just this: can my violence conquer yours?” Broaching a question so complex as to what extent you ought to allow the past to lay dormant and to what extent it is the ethical responsibility of an individual to acknowledge, remember and face the reality of traumatic events, Shutter Island has a truly terrifying tonality. Ultimately, Daniels fails, unable to accept that he is a “man of violence”. Given the choice “to live as a monster or to die as a good man”, our hero fails tragically at the last hurdle, resetting and reprogramming himself into the falsity of denial. Although the reveal is a little straightforward and on a literal level the film gives the game away very early on - heck, if you’ve seen the trailer you probably already know exactly what happens in the narrative - the care and precision taken to create what is ultimately a stunning and engaging visual experience is enough to save the film from suffering The Sixth Sense (1999) syndrome. Shutter Island, by no means a standard thriller, even allows itself to indulge in the complexity of its own dialectic, offering up Kafkaesque philosophy as wry, witty relief. Well observed and thoughtful in its assemblage, Shutter Island is a surprisingly remarkable film. Photobucket