From the moment US Marshalls Teddy Daniels and Chuck Aule arrive at Shutter Island the audience is in a straight-jacket, tied up and hooked in to the bizarre happenings at Ashecliffe Asylum. But Martin Scorcese struggles to keep the tension taut in his much-anticipated, Hitchcock-referencing thriller.
Teddy (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his partner (Mark Ruffalo) have been called in to find a dangerous psychotic patient who has mysteriously escaped from her secure cell. But staff are acting strangely – none more so than the pipe-smoking hospital chief Dr Cawley (Ben Kingsley).
What starts as a gripping hard-boiled detective tale soon descends into madness and as the layers build, every character’s motives and mind is called into question. Before long the ominous island’s psychological scares soon take their toll on an emotionally wounded Teddy, with visually impressive dream sequences and colourful flashbacks revealing his troubled past which haunts him in the present.
Scorcese uses all the trusted tricks in the thriller-flick maker’s toolbox, giving them his own high-gloss. The best horrors of Alfred Hitchcock, Orson Welles and Samuel Fuller are all drawn from: claustrophobic corridors, a remote setting, looming camera angles and a constant sense of foreboding.
As anyone who has seen the trailer will probably guess, there could be a twist. The rug is pulled time after time but it’s easy to start expecting it. By halfway the reality of Shutter Island can be pretty easily predicted, and any alternative possibilities become highly unlikely.
At over two hours long, this wait for the inevitable loosens the film’s grip on the viewer and the tension becomes tiresome. The ending still packs a punch though and when the truth is revealed it still satisfies.
The gothic asylum and ‘50s setting give the film a great look but the story has been seen before. And with such a heavy plot, none of the characters really get room to breathe.
Disappointingly for Scorcese fans, the film feels like a drawn out episode of the Twilight Zone. A well acted, well directed B-movie with A-listers.