Sunday, February 21, 2010

Shutter Island.

Being someone that viciously judges any form of media on the strength/weakness of it's front cover and advertising campaign, i can say that seeing Shutter Island as soon as it came out had been a matter of the utmost importance since i first laid eyes on that billboard. It contained all the necessary imagery for a successful apprehension of my interest and was only made more convincing by the fact that it was everywhere i turned. How am i not going to see a movie advertised in multiple convenient locations with an image of an extremely sinister island asylum for the criminally insane spotlighted only by a lit match and a concerned Leonardo DiCaprio at it's header? It also helps that it's directed by one Martin Scorcese, who's last venture with Dicaprio resides at the top of my all time favourite films list, which is subject to change any time i bring it up.

I haven't seen Casablanca. This isn't for any particular reason aside from it's lack of awesome billboard advertisements and the fact that it was made before all of the stuff i currently enjoy even existed. I've seen stills for it though, stills and so many parodies and references to it that it takes no effort at all to have a general understanding of it's premise and why people talk about it like it's their first born child or something. For some reason, Shutter Island's opening scene reminded me of a parody scene from Casablanca that i'd seen on the Simpsons and several other cartoon sitcoms and not of a scene from the actual movie because i haven't seen it yet. It's 1954 and two detectives are standing at the bow of a ferry, smoking cigarettes and generally remaining invisible due to an impeding fog that helps set an unsettling foundation for the rest of the film. As our protagonists, U.S. Marshals Teddy Daniels (DiCaprio) and Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) first lay eyes on the dock of the otherwise impenetrable island asylum, dramatic, overbearing strings slowly build as the viewer is introduced to this mysterious stronghold and it's disturbed patients. The haunting and scarcely present score for Shutter Island seems to drift in and out between the more intense scenes and also serves it's purpose as a spine-tingling backdrop for the dark and desolate island scenery Scorcese seems so intent on portraying to his audience.

From the beginning, the plot is a seemingly one way street. Teddy, an ex-army official haunted by memories of Nazi concentration camps and Chuck, a mostly unknown detective from Boston, are partnered up to investigate a missing patient/prisoner on the island asylum/prison. For the most part Shutter Island never announces it's true cause and could just as easily be defined as a prison for the criminally insane as it could a therapy centre for the mentally unstable. As soon as they dock at the port the detectives soon realize that this will be no walk in the park, made evident by the obviously edgy local law enforcement that begrudgingly greet them at the foot of the ominous island. As they are guided to the main quarters by the head of security and eventually introduced to the patients and staff, the threads of an elaborate joke begin to show and Teddy begins to question the sincerity of his investigation and eventually, his own story. Their entire plan begins to fall apart quite early in the film due to the lack of co-operation from the passionate head psychiatrist, Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley) and his staff, who seem to have other agendas unbeknownst to the detectives. Without a means of exit from the island as a wild storm approaches, Teddy and Chuck soon become wise to what they feel is a conspiracy against them, straying from their orders in an attempt to uncover the truth behind the facility's purpose. In classic Scorcese fashion though, expect some surprises as the story progresses.

One of the primary attractions of this movie aside from the story is the mysterious island and it's surrounding scenery. The story is played out during the course of a violent storm that threatens the facility that the detectives have been sent to investigate, allowing for plenty of frights and a constant feeling that things could go pear-shaped at any moment. The asylum/prison is divided into three sectors, the lesser women's and men's blocks and the 'C' block, where all the most violent, irreconcilable patients are kept. Surrounding the facility are jagged mountain edges, endless forrest, open fields and a mysterious cliff-side lighthouse that only comes into play towards the film's conclusion. It's dark, it's atmospheric and the plot gives each set piece just the right amount of shine, keeping things fresh whilst still providing a thorough insight into the establishment and it's surroundings.

Unfortunately, this film may not be for everyone. If you're a pussy or someone's girlfriend, you'll be spending a-lot of time behind your hands during the plentiful flashback sequences and there's an overall feeling of doom throughout the film that some might not be able to deal with. Beyond the scares though, you'll discover an engaging story exploring personal loss, identity and the intricacies of the human mind, played out by an exceptional cast lead by a director that clearly knows what he is doing. Don't go and see this movie at Event Cinemas Innaloo, their candy bar is undergoing refurbishments and i had to drink coke out of a bottle, the lousy 600ml inconvenience lingering in the corner of my eye for the entirety of the film and it's lack of storage almost soured the experience for me.

Now i need to read the book that it's based on so i can tell people that "the book is sooo much better than the movie".

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