Shutter Island is fascinating. A relentlessly chilling mystery and a white-knuckle thriller, the film is keenly directed, superbly acted and the cinematography perfectly captures the eerie, creepy nature of a textbook cursed, disquieting, windowless, labyrinthine mental asylum. The goal of the story is to keep you guessing, and while some may pride themselves with the ability to predict the twists and turns, simply watching the events unfold is so enthralling that it proves to be more entertaining than knowing how it all turns out.
It’s 1954 on the remote Shutter Island in Boston Harbor, where U.S. Marshals Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) investigate the disappearance of a patient, Rachel (Emily Mortimer), from the Ashecliffe hospital for the criminally insane. It’s described as clinical care fused with law and order, where the most dangerous and damaged prisoners (always referred to as patients) are sent. The facility is foreboding, dark and downright scary, and Rachel’s escape seems impossible: no one saw her cross a room full of patients to get to the main door, there’s only one barred window in her room, and her shoes were left behind. The only clue is a folded note under a tile, which cryptically mentions a 67th patient – the hospital houses exactly 66.
Nothing is what it seems on Shutter Island, and Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley), the man who runs Ashecliffe, doesn’t appear interested in helping the detectives solve anything. But Teddy has an ulterior motive for coming to Shutter Island: his wife died several years earlier in a fire, started by a man named Andrew Laeddis, who he believes to have been transferred to the maximum security building known as Ward C on the island. If he can balance his desire for revenge with his mission of locating Rachel and outing the hospital for conducting inhuman experiments on its patients (a conspiracy he believes is being carefully safeguarded), he just might get to the bottom of it all. Getting off the island alive is another trick entirely.
The music would have us believe Shutter Island is a horror film, and the first-person-perspective ride through the gates of Ashecliffe is like Jurassic Park if it were located in the center of Silent Hill. Much of the film is manipulative, redirecting away from the truths and introducing new elements to bewilder and distract. Teddy’s like a rat in a maze, and so is the viewer, until the extremely lengthy conclusion, which painstakingly explains everything in detail, complete with flashbacks. While some may feel cheated by the controlled guidance as the plot unfolds, the imagery and character development attentively draws us in. Nightmarishly beautiful and maddeningly surrealistic, Teddy’s haunting hallucinations build his backstory as the current events grow more puzzling. The final moments deserve special attention as Shutter Island is intent on both disturbing and perplexing its audiences.
– The Massie Twins (GoneWithTheTwins.com)