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Shutter Island
Someone is definitely getting an Oscar.
Shutter Island
Leonardo DiCaprio Stars in "Shutter Island."
OPENING WEEKEND: $35,000,000
DOMESTIC TOTAL: $120,000,000
OTHER PREVIEWS: Alatriste (7/10)
  This Film is NOT a Future Release.
  The Following Preview has been Archived.

May 25th, 2009: The drama is set in 1954, with DiCaprio playing U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels, who is investigating the disappearance of a murderess who escaped from a hospital for the criminally insane and is presumed to be hiding on the remote "Shutter Island."

What to Expect: Since there have been actors and directors, there have been actors who have worked frequently with specific directors. The annals of cinema history are filled with legendary actor/director pairings. Alfred Hitchcock and Cary Grant. Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe. Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune. Tim Burton and Johnny Depp. And, of course, Robert DeNiro and Martin Scorsese. These days, however, Scorsese seems to have found himself a new muse, and his name is Leonardo DiCaprio. The pair have made three acclaimed films together, "Gangs of New York," "The Aviator" and "The Departed," for which each of them was nominated for their respective Oscars, Scorsese winning his long-overdue statuette for "The Departed."

Article continues below

From his beginnings as a Teen Beat heartthrob, Leonardo DiCaprio has made an extremely successful career for himself. He really hasn't made a bad film since 2002. Not all of his films have been financially lucrative (this year's "Revolutionary Road" was sadly anemic at the box office) but all of them have been well-reviewed. After the Titanic-sized boost that his career was given in 1997, DiCaprio floundered for a few years before Stephen Spielberg got a hold of him in "Catch Me If You Can" and he hasn't looked back since. Soon afterwards he was tapped by Scorsese for "Gangs of New York" and a new movie bromance was born.

In fact, this film is full of people who are on the way up. The other male protagonist, Mark Ruffalo, has been positioning himself as a go-to man for believable secondary characters, and Michelle Williams, who plays DiCaprio's character's wife, has a reputation that's steadily on the rise with lauded performances in films like "Deception" and "Wendy and Lucy." Joining them are film royalty Max Von Sydow and Ben Kingsley, and Oscar-nominated comeback kid Jackie Earle Haley, fresh off his well-praised turn as Rorschach in "Watchmen."

The source material has no less impressive a pedigree. The film is based on a book by deservedly famous mystery/thriller author Dennis Lehane, who has already had two of his books turned into critically acclaimed films, "Mystic River" and "Gone, Baby, Gone." Lehane's "Shutter Island" was optioned in the early years of the decade and languished in various stages of development for some time. I found an old article that referred to the project as a Wolfgang Petersen film. For a while, there seems to have been some thoughts about changing the name of the film to "Ashecliffe," but that was scrapped at some point. Eventually Scorsese became attached when the project was taken over by Paramount Pictures, with a screenplay by Laeta Kalogridis. That's a bit of a concern for me, frankly. Kalogridis' previous features are "Pathfinder" and "Alexander," neither of which were really good at all. She was also a writer/producer of the miserably awful and blessedly short-lived series "Bionic Woman," and "Birds of Prey" before that. I'm not sure what about this resume made someone think she was the right screenwriter for heavy material like this, but one thing I've learned about screenwriters is that past performance is often not a predictor. This isn't an actuarial table. Someone can have written three hit films and still come out with a dud next time out, and someone can have written four horrible films and then produce an Oscar-winning screenplay. So I've stopped trying to predict the quality of a screenplay based on the writer's past projects. The other factor with screenplays is that you just never know who else has been working on them. WGA rules are so strict about who gets credit for a given screenplay that the actual name in the credits may or may not reflect who was actually responsible for the content of the script. The "Fight Club" script is credited to writer Jim Uhls, but most of the people involved in the film have since admitted that most of the best parts of that screenplay came from "Seven" screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker, who did significant doctoring but was not allowed credit by the WGA.

Lehane has a near-unimpeachable reputation among mystery fans, although opinions vary as far as this book is concerned. It has the same moodiness, angst and mysterious atmosphere as his other books, water-soaked and suffused with ocean-scented Boston darkness, but its ending gives a lot of people some trouble.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

DiCaprio ought to be comfortable here; like his last film, "Shutter Island" takes place in the 1950s. He plays U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels, with Ruffalo playing his partner Chuck Aule. Teddy and Chuck are sent to Shutter Island to investigate the disappearance of an inmate from Ashecliffe, an insane asylum on the island. Naturally, there are twists and turns and the plot thickens. The thing that first struck me is that Michelle Williams is playing Daniels' wife, but in the summaries of the book I've seen, Daniels' wife is dead, and he discovers that the man who is responsible for her death is also an inmate at Ashecliffe. It's possible that Williams is playing the wife in flashbacks (the film is already full of flashbacks to Daniels' experience as a soldier in World War II and his witnessing of concentration camp victims), but equally possible that this aspect of the story has been changed.

Then there's the ending. I have searched and searched but I haven't been able to find a clear synopsis of the whole book that includes the ending. I've found some discussion of the ending among fans of the book; apparently it was ambiguous and difficult to understand, in the way of "Mulholland Drive" or "Donnie Darko," two films that "Shutter Island" may end up being compared to (not that such a comparison would be bad, both of those films are fantastic). From what I'm able to piece together, there may be an alternate reality going on here, and Daniels may not be who he seems to be, nor is his partner, and the asylum may be engaged in some mind-control experiments that Daniels might have some first-hand experience with.

Of course, there's talk that the film has changed the book's ending. A group of commenters who'd seen the script said that it reminded them a lot of "Fight Club," which tells you something right there. One or more of the characters may not exist, or may be the same person...the imagination runs wild. I've come across several other revelations about Teddy Daniels and who he may or may not be, but I don't wish to spoil you. Usually I have no qualms about spoiling people in these previews, but for twists like this...I just can't bring myself to do it. As I'm writing this I wish I had time to read the book myself, but sadly I didn't foresee this with enough lead time to pick up the book and finish it in time to write this preview.

Ruffalo has high praise for the film; he's quoted as saying that he thinks it'll be a major stylistic change for Scorsese and will be wildly successful. Scorsese hasn't really directed in the suspense/thriller genre since "Cape Fear," which I certainly found terrifying. He's a master of suspenseful drama with a lot of tension even in his non-thriller films, and this material seems very well suited to Scorsese's style.

I'm a tad puzzled about the publicity for this film, or lack thereof. There's been almost nothing in the way of marketing yet, and the film is (as of this writing 5/25/2009) scheduled to open in October. One would expect a preview attached to at least one summer film. I'm betting they'll put a trailer before films targeted to a similar demographic. "Public Enemies" would be the film I'd first pick for that.

In Conclusion: I think this film sounds fantastic. Moody and edgy, and who doesn't love a twisty ending? Every film I've heard this one compared to has been a film that I love ("Fight Club," "Memento," "Mulholland Drive"), so that's quite a predictor for me personally, but I'm hardly a harbinger for the moviegoing public at large. There is very (very) premature Oscar talk floating about, which would seem foolhardy for any film except this one, considering the Scorsese/DiCaprio four-for-four track record with Best Picture and Best Actor nominations. People like thrillers, they like twisty endings, they like Martin Scorsese, and they really like gold statues. I think it looks good for this film. If they can manage to remember to tell people about it, that is.

Similar Titles: The Departed, Fight Club, Donnie Darko
February 19th, 2010 (wide)
June 8th, 2010 (DVD)

Paramount Pictures

Martin Scorsese

Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Michelle Williams, Patricia Clarkson, Max von Sydow, Emily Mortimer, Jackie Earle Haley

Total: 79 vote(s).


Click here to view site

Rated R for disturbing violent content, language and some nudity.

138 min





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