Sunday, February 21, 2010

"Shutter Island": Leo's two-hour scowl

I can feel it. I'm going to kick up some shit with this review.

Let me first say, I am a film snob, ergo, I love Martin Scorsese. He was one of the bold filmmakers of the 70's that revived the American cinema, and several of his films are both critical darlings and popular favorites (see: Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, Raging Bull).

He's the original Tarantino, the difference being that while both are students of film history and take influences from films of the past, Scorsese pays homage while Tarantino blatantly replicates, specifically from Scorsese. Too bad the conversation detailing this from Swingers isn't to be found on Youtube. Sigh.

Point being, I expect a lot from Scorsese. Even though some of his more recent works haven't had the punch of his best, they've still had that touch. Sure, The Aviator is flawed, but there is fantastic camera work and an unflinching look at Howard Hughes. It feels like a Scorsese picture.

I suppose that was my biggest disappointment with Shutter Island - aside from a dream sequence and the on-screen depictions of a migraine (which, by the way, screams light bulbs from The Aviator) - is that it doesn't really feel like a movie Scorsese directed.

Shutter Island, based on the novel by Dennis Lehane, follows a US Marshall (DiCaprio) and his partner (Mark Ruffalo, whom I always enjoy) investigating a missing prisoner from a Massachusetts-bay mental institution. In charge of the facility are two doctors, Ben Kingsly and Max von Sydow, who are not making it easy for their investigation to proceed. I would hate to give more away, but if you've seen the trailer, you already know, and if you haven't, you'll have it figured out in the first 30 minutes of the movie. Suffice it to say that not everything is what it seems.

I read a version of the script back in 2005 that left the ending much more open-ended that what we're given in the final product. My complaint with that script is the same with the film - it's a whole lot of work for very little payoff. Shutter Island clocks in at over two hours, and despite a few solid scenes, specifically an extended nightmare sequence and DiCaprio's last couple of lines, the film really feels slow. Had it been about thirty minutes shorter, which wouldn't be too much of a task, Shutter Island would feel like a decent thriller instead of a bloated noir piece trying to be more than it is.

TOO MUCH: Leo grimacing, flashbacks to his days in the service liberating a Nazi death camp which didn't add much to his character

COULD HAVE USED MORE: Suspicion between DiCaprio and Ruffalo.

FILM SNOB NOTE: The aforementioned migraine scene featured a lot of overexposure of the frame, similar to Scorsese's technique in The Aviator in the premiere scene, and Hitchcock's Rear Window. I'm relieved I'm not the only one that wasn't blown away by Shutter Island, or noticed that Leo did a LOT of squinting throughout: Slate's Dana Stevens didn't care for it much, either.

IHYFM RATING: THREE out of FIVE MEHS. I didn't hate it by any means, I just didn't love it. A legendary director and amazing A-list cast from top to bottom can't make a decent script great.

IF YOU SAID THIS WAS YOUR FAVORITE MOVIE, I'D THINK: We're going to go out to the light house and have a little talk.

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