Martin Scorsese Opens the Shutter.


Some movies you just roll the dice on. You buy your ticket more-than-half-expecting the movie to disappoint you, but the faint pilot light of hope flickers just bravely enough to get you into the theater. Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island is one of those movies.

The long (two-hour-twenty-minute) running time of the movie is not promising. Most of the reviews from the respectable critics have not been promising. The fact that Leonardo DiCaprio has been unconvincing in a whole slew of movie roles (including in Scorsese’s films) is not promising. Yet Scorsese has hit it out of the park just often enough that you think he might do it again. It’s been a while, but he still might have it in him. So you attend this tale of two federal marshals dispatched in 1954 to Shutter Island (in the middle of Boston Harbor) to investigate the disappearance from an asylum for the criminally insane of one of the patients housed there.

In fact, for much of Shutter Island‘s first half, thoughts about Scorsese’s having lost his touch several films ago are never far away. All I can tell you without spoiling the movie is that it goes somewhere you don’t expect it to go, and when it does, you get what this intense exploration of mental illness has been about; every previous image in the film changes from dismissible to indelible. You walk out of the theater with a feeling of compassion mixed with terror, a sense that sanity/insanity is a cliff’s edge we all stand on, and the feeling stays with you.

A shutter on a window keeps light out. But a shutter on a camera lets light in. Shutter Island is Scorsese’s island, the insular turf he singularly occupies in today’s film world by his determined use of his camera to expose the interiors of the human mind. The movie has power. Scorsese has done it again.

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2 Comments on “Martin Scorsese Opens the Shutter.”

  1. Bob says:

    I thought this movie was terrible. I didn’t want it to be, but the “surprise ending” was just so much cheaper than the real confrontations that DiCaprio’s character would have had to face.

  2. Neil Shapiro says:

    As Ted knows, we saw this movie together some time ago (I’m getting to this comment rather late; sorry about that), & I have to agree with him: it’s a powerful film, & Scorcese’s at the top of his form. As an experiment, I reread the novel that the movie is based on, by Dennis Lehane. It’s all there; not just the plot, that was lifted verbatim — but also the visual sense of the story, every sweaty, paranoid inch of it. As a further experiment, I reread Mystic River, also by Lehane, made into a critically acclaimed film by Clint Eastwood. The book has a vivid life, a sense of place that is arrived at through meticulous observation. Interior thought is put into characters’ mouths in the film, & to me it suffers considerably in comparison. The third Lehane book made into film is Gone Baby Gone, directed by Ben Affleck. In the interest of authenticity, Mr. Affleck cast his film with actual Boston natives — a gimmick that lays on the screen like day old scrod. Again, whereas the book jumps off the page, the movie is diverting at best. My point? Dennis Lehane is a Great Fucking Writer, who A-list directors have been lucky enough to use as source material. Contrast this to perhaps the greatest example of a director spinning gold out of dross — I give you Francis Ford Copplola, & The Godfather, parts 1&2. Unlike the pulp beginnings of what is arguably one of the greatest onscreen narratives of all time, neither Scorcese, Eastwood, or Affleck (all of whom are, without a doubt,fine artists) brought ANYTHING to the screen that wasn’t already there, vividly, on the page.


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