By Sandra Kraisirideja
“Shutter Island” is not for audiences who want to be spoon-fed entertainment and expect a movie to be nothing more than a mindless distraction.
That is not director Martin Scorsese’s style, which he proves once again in “Shutter Island,” starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo and Ben Kingsley. Scorsese has created a sophisticated film that is also entertaining. It demands the audiences’ attention and requires some mental participation, which is a good thing when the central plot involves solving the mysterious disappearance of a patient at a mental hospital for the criminally insane.
DiCaprio and Ruffalo play U.S. marshals who spend a stormy weekend on Shutter Island, home to Ashecliffe Hospital for the criminally insane, in order to locate a female patient who seems to have vanished into thin air. The movie is based on the novel of the same name by Dennis Lehane, who also wrote “Mystic River” and “Gone Baby Gone.” Kingsley plays the doctor who oversees the hospital and may or may not be hiding a dark secret.
“Shutter Island” marks Scorcese’s return to feature films since winning an Oscar in 2007 for “The Departed.”
Since this is a Scorsese film, even the supporting actors—who sometimes only have one scene—are among the top-tier talent of Hollywood. Michelle Williams, Patricia Clarkson, Jackie Earle Haley and Max von Sydow help fill out the “Shutter Island” cast.
The fictional Shutter Island and Ashecliffe Hospital are also important characters in the movie, which was filmed at various locations around New England including Peddocks Island, Medfield State Hospital, an abandoned textile mill in Taunton, Mass. and Turner Hill Golf Club in Ipswich, Mass.
Helping Scorsese achieve the movie’s chilling realism were director of photography Robert Richardson, production designer Dante Ferretti, costume designer Sandy Powell and editor Thelma Schoonmaker. The talented quartet worked closely with Scorsese to develop a look and feel for “Shutter Island” that would evoke police dramas of the 1950s and horror films of the ’70s. Richardson said he and Scorsese researched the lighting and camera movement of Roman Polanski’s “Repulsion,” “Cul-de-sac” and “Rosemary’s Baby.”
The mood of “Shutter Island” is always off-balance, which matches the mental state of DiCaprio’s character, who slowly appears to be going mad within the confines of Ashecliffe. His hallucinations and dream sequences are beautifully shot in over-saturated color, giving the scenes an unnatural, heightened appearance that differs greatly from the gray, bleak world in the hospital.
Not quite matching the strong visual elements of the movie is the script by Laeta Kalogridis, who wrote “Alexander.” It’s the weakest part of the movie, but not so damaging that the actors and Scorsese aren’t able to work with it. It’s a solid enough foundation and it’s to Scorsese’s credit for his vision for the movie that he was able to elevate the script to something better.
“Shutter Island” opens nationwide Feb. 19.
Photo credit: Andrew Cooper/Paramount Pictures