Best to Shun Shutter Island?
As inspiration for the style of his 1950s noir Shutter Island, a twisty thriller set on an island mental hospital, the film’s director Martin Scorsese has cited such films as Laura, Out of the Past, On Dangerous Ground, and The Haunting. Infusing Shutter Island with bizarre flashbacks, grim atmosphere, rust, rain, and confusion, Scorsese has nevertheless missed something important that his film’s celluloid ancestors have in common.
Laura runs 85 minutes. Out of the Past is 97. On Dangerous Ground is 82. The Haunting (the 1963 version) is a whopping, expansive 112 minutes.
Shutter Island? Two hours and 18 minutes. This movie is too. Damn. Long.
No Scorsese picture is entirely devoid of interest, and as this one starts up it keeps you off-base and even excited as its hero Teddy Daniels (a physically and psychologically battered Leonardo DiCaprio, who looks like he got up on the wrong side of the bed and then fell down the stairs) travels to an island in Boston Harbor to investigate the disappearance of an inmate -- sorry, patient -- from an institution for the criminally insane. She’s a psychotic mom (Emily Mortimer) who drowned her three children. How could she have slipped away from this Alcatraz-like funny farm?
Teddy, a U.S. marshal, and his new partner (Mark Ruffalo) scoop up clues as the shrinks in charge (Ben Kingsley and Max von Sydow) seemingly stand in their way at every turn. A note found in the missing woman’s cell asks, cryptically, “Who is number 67?” and the doctors profess to have no idea what she might have meant. Nature isn’t cooperating either: a hurricane is kicking up, meaning it’ll be impossible to catch a ferry back to the mainland anytime soon.
As if finding his way around this hall of mirrors (everyone seems to be holding back something, and Teddy is specifically warned away from Ward C, the black hole where the most intractable “patients” are subjected to unknown forms of restraint and re-education) wasn’t challenging enough, the marshal has to fight off the jagged shards of his memories.