Unpopular Opinion (Film): “Shutter Island”

By Ethan Sapienza

via the Guardian

I’ll admit I was excited when I first heard about “Shutter Island.” Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese working together again, making a gritty psychological thriller about a troubled US Marshall investigating both his wife’s murderer and the malpractices of an insane asylum.

The film was rich with potential: DiCaprio’s utterly captivating and immersive acting, Scorsese’s hard hitting style and adoration for violence and intriguing characters, as well as the frightening atmosphere that always comes with asylums. All of this anticipation was also built on the fact that Scorsese’s last film was “The Departed,” for which he finally received his long deserved Oscar (and what I believe to be one of his best works).

Martin Scorsese, as much as I love you and proudly declare that you are an NYU alum, “Shutter Island” is more worthy of M. Night Shyamalan’s repertoire than yours.

The film follows DiCaprio as Teddy Daniels, who ends up being crazy. That’s about the whole film.

Mystery and intrigue are built up, then slowly devolve into a sloppy mess of cheap thrills and dumb twists. Upon further analysis, the premise of using an unreliable/insane protagonist can be a death sentence if used improperly. Essentially, by having the last point of a film be a revelation, which establishes how all of the preceding events are false or distorted, the movie puts its stock on the revelation itself. It must ecstatic, unforeseen and intelligent to succeed. The movie’s success entirely rides on the twist.

When Teddy Daniels walks into a building he was previously told not to enter, the entire clutter that shamefully disguises itself as a twist unfolds to him: everything was set up to break him from his crazed mental state after killing his wife.

Two points here: one, the twist is not too hard to see coming (at least it wasn’t for me), as the foreseeable conclusion manifested itself within me as a severe sense of dread that Scorsese would rely on such a sorry device. Second, the twist renders the entire film moot. Instead of the similar revelation in “The Usual Suspects” where things finally make sense and more questions arise stirring on further viewings, “Shutter Island” dimly and dully declares its hero insane, striking a keen question within the viewer: what the hell was the point of watching that then?

Scooby Doo meets beach-read-pulp fiction is the result of the meltdown “Shutter Island” so roughly experiences. I wish I could say more, at least something positive, but I find there is ultimately nothing. The equivalence to the film’s twist would be me writing at the end of this piece something along the lines of, “jk lol I actually really liked it.” Poorly written, inappropriate, and pointless, I don’t have the faintest idea why Scorsese would permit such an ending. Well Scorsese’s next work with Leo will be better certainly!

(The next entry in Unpopular Opinion will be “Wolf of Wall Street.”)

Ethan Sapienza is a staff writer. Email him at film@nyunews.com.

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