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Mystery and Suspense > SHUTTER ISLAND

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message 1: by Tom (new)

Tom | 5543 comments Scorsese's latest has all the trappings of a big old genre blowout. All the trappings are there -- a missing person investigation set on an insane asylum on a more than usually isolated island, a terrible storm that cuts off all communications with the mainland, asylum staff with an agenda, asylum inmates with an agenda, and an investigating officer who seems to be having a hard time keeping his wits about him. Just the ticket for a great edge of your seat wackadoo thriller joyride. Woo hoo!

Alas, Martin Scorsese doesn't know from "woo hoo!" SHUTTER ISLAND is the latest and possibly the weakest (but probably not the last) of the BIG SURPRISE films, like THE SIXTH SENSE, THE USUAL SUSPECTS, MEMENTO, etc. I'm not bragging when I say that I saw it coming before the movie even started, simply by thinking about the fact that there is in fact a big surprise. I remember thinking, "Oh, man, it can't be THAT, can it?" And when it came to the Big Reveal, I started to think that there had to be more to it, right, there just had to be, Scorsese couldn't be settling for that tired old gimmick, really, could he, that couldn't be it?

And goddamn it to hell, it was.

Folks, M. Night Shyamalan himself would have passed on this script for being just too too too fucking obvious. And Scorsese himself doesn't help matters. Never the subtlest of directors, he just goes full-throttle here -- every scene is heavily underlined for maximum importance, and vast stretches of dialogue seem to be marked with an asterisk somehow: Ben Kingsley virtually holds up a sign saying IMPORTANT CLUE every time he speaks. It would work as a sort of affectionate parody of high gothic whodunit stuff, but Scorsese never seems to be in on the joke.

There's just nothing animating the movie, no fun, no idea that Scorsese was having us all on, a la Hitchcock's assertion that PSYCHO was a "fun picture." There's nothing in SHUTTER ISLAND to even approach that glorious little moment in PSYCHO, for example, where Anthony Perkins says, "My mother.. what's the phrase? She's not herself today." There's just no room for that kind of thing in Scorsese's solemn and increasingly joyless universe.

Solemn and joyless can have their appeal, of course. What finally makes SHUTTER ISLAND such an ordeal is the extreme heavy handedness with which Scorsese works overtime to add some perceived SERIOUSNESS to the rather silly contraption of a story. Flashbacks of the liberation of Dachau, no less, are liberally sprinkled throughout the film. There's some nattering about violence being part of the human condition, and a mention of God supplying a moral order. All it really ends up doing is highlighting the real silliness of the goings-on, and not in a good way.

OK, so there are good points. A flashback to Dachau contains a memorable scene about the horrors of war that seems to act as a rebuke to the grinning gleeful savagery of Tarantino's BASTERDS. The film is gorgeously mounted, the cinematography etc. are all perfection. The acting is mostly beyond reproach, with Michelle Williams and Mark Ruffalo turning in particularly fine work. Leonardo DiCaprio does his very best, but I have to say that I found his eternal golden youthfulness to be a major drawback in believing that he is supposed to have witnessed the horrors of the Holocaust firsthand. I'm hoping someone somewhere will explain the cameo from the great Elias Koteas, who appears all too briefly wearing what looks like Robert De Niro's Frankenstein Monster makeup. Is that Scorsese's idea of an inside joke or something?

It has to be said that SHUTTER ISLAND boasts the single coolest contemporary classical soundtrack since Kubrick's THE SHINING, from which Scorsese lifts at least one memorable cue. The soundtrack album is essential owning. If only the movie itself were even remotely essential viewing.

message 2: by Steve (last edited Mar 04, 2010 07:17AM) (new)

Steve | 957 comments Yeah, agreed. The overwrought Oscar-bait heavy-handedness won the day, apparently. I kept thinking, "Man, what heavy-duty plot elements does this movie NOT have?" You've got Nazis, you've got Nazi doctors, you've got the Holocaust, you've got WWII, you've got drowned kids, you've got hallucinations, you've got the mentally disturbed patients spewing hints, you've got the alcoholic protagonist with the murdered wife, you've got Communist plots, etc etc etc.

That said, what's it say about a thriller when you wish the plot twist/secret was never part of the movie? If Scorsese + Lehane just went with the full-bore nuttiness of the protagonist's delusions, I'd be on board!

It's also approximately 45 minutes too long, as are most Hollywood productions these days. (Academy voters tend to vote for films at least 130 minutes long.)

One bit I really liked was Max von Sydow's first scene, when he says, "I'm very impressed by your defense mechanisms." Not sure why, but I thought it was a great little comic moment, and remember LOLing at it. Must have been MVS's delivery.

message 3: by Phillip (new)

Phillip i've heard the music is really nice. i'd say i should pick up the soundtrack, but i probably have all those works that they pulled.

i had no idea max was in it! man, how old is he at this point? the guy has been in movies since 1949...

message 4: by Alex DeLarge (new)

Alex DeLarge | 851 comments Thanks for the incisive review Tom! I had no interest in seeing this but I'm curious as to the music: Wendy Carlos' score for THE SHINING is one of my favorite soundtracks.
I didn't know Max was still around either!

message 5: by Claire (last edited Mar 04, 2010 09:30AM) (new)

Claire (clairebear8) | 15 comments Tom wrote: "Scorsese's latest has all the trappings of a big old genre blowout. All the trappings are there -- a missing person investigation set on an insane asylum on a more than usually isolated island, a t..."

Remember that the time period of this movie was the early to mid 50's - so Leo would have been old enough to have fought in WWII and witnessed the holocaust.

message 6: by Steve (new)

Steve | 957 comments Oh, sure, Max von Sydow was in MINORITY REPORT, as well the more recent masterpiece RUSH HOUR 3! He's also in this upcoming ROBIN HOOD thing.

message 7: by Tom (last edited Mar 04, 2010 03:42PM) (new)

Tom | 5543 comments Claire, right, got that certainly. The point I was trying to make is that DiCaprio looks 18 years old. He looks it now, he looked it ten years ago, and he'll very likely look it ten years from now. He does his best to project being all haunted by the past, but based on that baby face he seems more to be haunted over unrequited love of a cheerleader or that upcoming history exam than anything else.

message 8: by Phillip (last edited Mar 04, 2010 10:23AM) (new)

Phillip Steve-O wrote: "Oh, sure, Max von Sydow was in MINORITY REPORT, as well the more recent masterpiece RUSH HOUR 3! He's also in this upcoming ROBIN HOOD thing."

right...i'll try to stay focused on his outstanding work with bergman.

message 9: by Tom (new)

Tom | 5543 comments Von Sydow has bills to pay as much as anyone, I guess. MINORITY REPORT, though, man oh man.

message 10: by George (new)

George | 951 comments Well, never forget his immortal appearance as Ming the Merciless in Flash Gordon, or for that matter as the aging king in Conan the Barbarian.

message 11: by Tom (new)

Tom | 5543 comments His Ming the Merciless will live forever.

message 12: by Phillip (new)

Phillip i haven't seen either of those films george...(!)

i'd prefer to leave the planet holding the memory of his performance in seventh seal, the virgin spring, or even hour of the wolf.

message 13: by George (new)

George | 951 comments well, there's little doubt about which are the most precious memeories, however, the other two roles are not entirely without their own peculiar charms.

message 14: by Tom (last edited Mar 06, 2010 04:46AM) (new)

Tom | 5543 comments Philip, Von Sydow's Ming The Merciless is a joy, as is a good deal of that silly campfest FLASH GORDON. Well worth watching one of the great film actors having some fun playing pure evil.

message 15: by George (new)

George | 951 comments here, here.

message 16: by Phillip (last edited Mar 05, 2010 03:28PM) (new)

Phillip fair enough. i'll take a look at those movies and get back to you.

sorry for my pretentious post! i love low brow along with high brow cinema. i just forget sometimes. but i really love those max performances in those films i mentioned. it wouldn't be quite so bad if i could point to a few american filmmakers who could rival bergman - every time i think about it, i just get dark and i did above.

message 17: by Tom (new)

Tom | 5543 comments Philip, you art house snob you.

message 18: by Phillip (last edited Mar 05, 2010 11:03PM) (new)

Phillip :)

just for the sake of conversation, can you think of an american film maker who takes on the social problems that bergman wrestled with in as artful a manner, or who worked with a team of actors of that caliber? i'm not provoking or anything - i'm interested in your opinion (or anyone who wants to address that question). in short, who do you think of as being one of the really great american directors, in terms of so called "serious" cinema ... directors who are not concerned with entertainment, but deal with film as an art form that can transform society.

message 19: by Matt (new)

Matt | 218 comments Tom wrote: "His Ming the Merciless will live forever."

Gotta love the Ming.

I am not quite sure what ppl are saying about MINORITY REPORT- I haven't seen it since it was in theatres, but I remember liking it esp. for a Spielberg joint.

message 20: by Tom (new)

Tom | 5543 comments In re: MINORITY REPORT -- there are holes in the plot. Big ones. Evidently no one at the Pre-Crime Institute thinks to change their locks after their director is fired in disgrace. There are plot predictability issues. Big ones, especially a murder mystery plot that materializes out of nowhere and makes SHUTTER ISLAND look subtle. There are lapses in plain old fashioned good taste -- that moment of Tom Cruise chasing his bouncing eyeballs down that hallway is a lowpoint in both his and Spielberg's career. And there's the obligatory Spielberg Restoration Of The Family All Is Well Happy Ending that makes a hash out of the entire enterprise.

Some cool FX, though. I remember being deeply disappointed by the film, which I had high hopes for as Spielberg's first after the remarkable A.I., which it turns out I had completely misunderstood as a statement that Spielberg was finally going to put childish things behind him and grow the fuck up as an artist. I was younger and less cynical then.

So, Philip. I think there are serious issues on display in the films of a lot of filmmakers. The works of good old solid Alfred Hitchcock, for example, constitute as clear a statement of what should not happen between people as anything in Bergman, and manage to be vastly entertaining without resorting to the overt philosophising monologues that can mar Bergman's work.

But that may not be what you mean. Just to clarify, what social issues are you asking about?

message 21: by Alex DeLarge (new)

Alex DeLarge | 851 comments Phillip, possibily Orson Welles but his film were made mostly in Europe, outside the Hollywood system. I'm just discovering John Cassevetes and would add him to the list.

message 22: by Phillip (new)

Phillip oh, you know: infidelity, existential angst, questioning religion and faith, psychological schisms and mental illness, the comedy of errors, the (illusion of the) absence of god, rape, murder, and revenge, the question of justice in the face of these crimes, the coming of old age and the examination of your past, the bliss of love and the sting of rejection, the complexities of family - you know - the themes that shakespeare dealt with over and over.

i suppose there are a lot of film makers that have handled a few of those issues, but bergman seemed to handle all of them at one time or another, and i'm not listing all of the stuff i'm thinking about...there's too many things to list here.

message 23: by Sooz (new)

Sooz i just found the more-interesting-than-discussing-Shutter-Island corner this thread has turned. i'll throw the name John Sayles into the list of American directors to be considered as taking social issues seriously. as seriously as Bergman? maybe not, but for an American director, i'd say he was up there.

message 24: by Phillip (last edited Mar 11, 2010 08:52AM) (new)

Phillip i just thanked geoffrey for mentioning john sayles in another thread. thanks for mentioning him sooz. i'm definitely a fan of his work. and that is the kind of film-maker i was talking about - someone that takes on issues that are actually happening in contemporary society. sunshine state is a good example, as is casa de los babies and men with guns (and a lot more). like bergman, he took on themes that are part of his country's history (matewan)...

message 25: by Phillip (new)

Phillip how did i not see alex's post before now? weird. yeah - i would include cassavettes.

message 26: by Sooz (new)

Sooz Phillip wrote: "i just thanked geoffrey for mentioning john sayles in another thread. thanks for mentioning him sooz. i'm definitely a fan of his work. and that is the kind of film-maker i was talking about - some..."

i'd like to read the discussion about Sayles. can you tell me what thread it was in? thanks Phillip.

message 27: by Phillip (new)

Phillip it wasn't really a discussion. now i forget which thread it was on...i'll look.

message 28: by Phillip (new)

Phillip it was on cult classics - but it's a very short discussion - :) perhaps i should start a sayles thread.

message 29: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie | 85 comments I'm am kind of an outsider in this seem like every movie I actually like not many of you do. Could you all suggest some recent movies that you find worth the time to watch.

message 30: by Phillip (new)

Phillip stephanie - no one has the same opinion - it's ok that we don't agree on movies, isn't it?

having said that, if you can list five films that you enjoy, i could recommend somethings that might interest you.

message 31: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie | 85 comments Of course it is only natural that not everyone has the same taste in movies...if we did can you imagine what a boring world we would live in...

2~Sherlock Holmes
3~Alice in Wonderland

message 32: by Phillip (last edited Mar 12, 2010 12:37AM) (new)

Phillip well, i haven't seen any of those films except sherlock holmes, so i'm at somewhat of a disadvantage. but i have an idea of the direction you're heading in, so give me a day or two and i'll cook up a list of recommendations based on the general vibe of the movies you've listed. hopefully some other people will chime in (c'mon, you know who you are).

i liked a good bit of the recent sherlock holmes film, but i wasn't so keen on the ending and how big and bombastic it all became. i liked the quieter more psychological side of the film - the character development stuff that showed us interesting sides of holmes that we haven't seen before, and his relationship with watson was different than in the other films - that was a nice change.

if you're a robert downey junior fan, zodiac was one of the best thrillers i've seen in the past decade - lots of good acting and a gripping story. there's one pretty grizzly moment, but apart from that it's all well orchestrated tension.

with the recent holmes film i'm reminded of V for Vendetta - similar style - lots of action, some nice psychological material to thicken the character development, some socially relevant subtext and a few good performances, especially by my girl natalie portman.

i'm also a fan of brazil, the terry gilliam film - but that's certainly not new. and i liked the imaginarium of doctor parnassus - which is good fantasy material, and it seems like you're a fan of the genre. there really isn't any substitute for baron von munchausen, that is essential viewing - but again, that's certainly not a new film.

i would say the recent bond films with daniel craig are also in this ballpark - guy ritchie (director) said he was making a bond film with this recent holmes effort - not a gothic basil rathbone thriller.

as far as wolfman - which i haven't seen - most horror fans love the howling - that came out long ago but i think it holds up well - as does american werewolf in london. i'm not such a fan of cgi, or i'd recommend the underworld - lycan series - which a lot of people liked - do you know those films? i liked the first one, but wasn't crazy about the sequel. for my money the best horror film of the last decade was let the right one in - but i've already raved about it on these threads since it came out, so i'm sure you've heard of it. i also liked [REC:] quite a lot, but would avoid quarantine - the american remake.

did you see cloverfield? i was so ready to hate it and never check it out, but a friend i respect recommended it and i liked it a lot more than i thought i would. it worked well for me that it didn't have any actors i recognized.

there are a few other films i'm forgetting - so again, give me a day or so and i'll recommend some more stuff.

message 33: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie | 85 comments Thank you so much for your prompt response! I will see if I can't get my hands on a few of those for this weekend.

message 34: by Phillip (last edited Mar 12, 2010 12:28AM) (new)

Phillip no problem - i know you've been posting here for some time - perhaps you're just shy and don't speak up so often - i wish you would - it makes it more fun when more people speak up and it's not the same old movie nerds who have spent way too many hours of their lives in front of a screen (i am absolutely one of those people). spices it up a bit.

message 35: by Sooz (new)

Sooz Stephanie: i only have two friends who will even GO to see a movie with me. everyone else i know is bored silly by the ones that i like. so i don't know that my recommendations would be of much value to you. :)

but - if you don't mind taking a chance, here's a couple of my favourite newish movies - i guess i'd call them dramas.
Broken Embraces (subtitled)
Away we Go
A Serious Man
An Education

message 36: by Sooz (new)

Sooz Phillip wrote: "it was on cult classics - but it's a very short discussion - :) perhaps i should start a sayles thread."

thanks Phillip - i don't tend to visit the Cult Classics thread. but maybe i should. i would never have guessed that Sayles' movies would be considered cult material. i thought it was all Night of the Living Dead and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. ;)

message 37: by Phillip (new)

Phillip well, we had a hard time agreeing on exactly what a cult film is...

message 38: by Phillip (new)

Phillip stephanie,

i second sooz' recommendation of broken embraces - loved it.

message 39: by Phillip (last edited Mar 13, 2010 09:19PM) (new)

Phillip stephanie,

i was thinking about a film called the fall. have you seen it? it came out a few years ago. based on some of the movies you like, i think you might really enjoy this one. here's a link to a description, etc.

message 40: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie | 85 comments I have not seen that one but from the description it is going on the list for sure!!

message 41: by Phillip (new)

Phillip please let me know what you think of it when you get around to it. from the movies you listed, i think you're going to love it. i did.

message 42: by Elaine (new)

Elaine (httpgoodreadscomelaine_chaika) | 241 comments As one of my movie-going comrades said when it was FINALLY over, "It was like watching The Cabinet of Dr.Caligari (excuse me if I mangled the title), only it never ends." I think Scorsese stopped making good movies after King of Comedy -- except for the one about the guy who can't get home one night -- the one where his taxi fare flies out of the window, and where he goes from place to place -- what is the name of that?

message 43: by Phillip (new)

Phillip after hours...with griffin dunne (sp?)

message 44: by Steve (new)

Steve | 957 comments I like AFTER HOURS a lot too. I can still watch GOODFELLAS from beginning to end without looking at the time. But, yes, his star has certainly dimmed since the 1970s.

message 45: by Elaine (new)

Elaine (httpgoodreadscomelaine_chaika) | 241 comments Ah, that's it, AFTER HOURS with Griffin Dunne as the male Alice who falls into the weird world. I should've mentioned GOODFELLAS, although it's not in the league with GODFATHER, II. I guess that was his actual last viewable film (GOODFELLAS, that is.) Hmm, can we include ALICE DOESN"T LIVE HERE ANY MORE? I don't think it's great, but I've watched it 3 or 4 times (which for me isn't that much) and found it amusing, a rainy day film. (Actually, I used to be a little in love with Kris Kristofferson)

message 46: by Kawthar (new)

Kawthar Ali I really want to what shutter island
but is it worth it... or I should wait till it shows on t.v screens???

message 47: by Jim (new)

Jim (jim_) Not a film that I would recommend. I'm not sure why i watched the whole film, but I kept looking at the time and thinking i was wasting time. It's a shame that Kingsley's performance was wasted on this film. I thought he did a great job of delivery his lines unlike DiCapprio.

If you want to see a good misleading and thought evoking film try:
Blow Up
Jacob's Ladder
They Might Be Giants
Total Recall
The Wild Bunch

message 48: by Julie (new)

Julie (brontesister) | 913 comments I enjoyed Shutter Island. I saw it in a packed theatre when it first opened. I would think it's better on a big screen.

I liked the eerie tone and Hitchcockian elements. I liked Di Caprio's and Kingsley's performances.

It was quite a twisted story and you had to pay attention, but I like twisty mysteries.

message 49: by Jackie (new)

Jackie | 39 comments Julie wrote: "I enjoyed Shutter Island. I saw it in a packed theatre when it first opened. I would think it's better on a big screen.

I liked the eerie tone and Hitchcockian elements. I liked Di Caprio's and Ki..."

HI Julie. I agree, I also liked Shutter Island. It's one of those movies that you actually have to think, everything isn't predictable...

message 50: by Sabrina (new)

Sabrina I saw Shutter Island in the theatre also and liked it. I was really hoping that at the end of the movie it would turn out that he really wasn't crazy and that the doctor's were making him think he was to protect a big secret. It was a bit obvious that he ends up being a patient, BUT, I enjoyed the ride. I will admit that Di Caprio does have the unfair advantage of always looking 10 years younger than he is, but with all the scruff I think he pulls off a tortured soul o.k.

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