Shutter Island is a prime example of the “thinking movie” for populists: throw in some ridiculous premise and cool visuals, and everyone screams “masterpiece” even if the film makes no sense.
Honestly, I think Scorcese should stick to thrillers, not weird combinations of thriller/horror/Hitchcock ripoffs. This film really reminded me of Memento or Identity, but it was only half as good and completely stupefying, which is saying something for the quality of Identity, which was a piece of shit.
I’m not sure where to start with this one, but let me start with the first scene, which was shot on a (fake) boat. One of Scorsese’s major problems is that he can’t give a scene any direction. There’s a serious lack of movement in this film, and the first scene gives us a clear indication of what’s to come: DiCaprio looking moody and making faces and Mark Ruffalo saying “Boss” every thirty seconds. There’s no reason for anything. Even the CGI was horrendous, and in a scene that lasted at least a minute but felt like five, it looked ridiculous, like someone tried to photoshop a gray sky onto the green screen behind the actors.
It only gets worse from there. I don’t understand why Laeta Kalogridis keeps getting screenwriting gigs. Does anyone remember Alexander or Nightwatch? Actually Bekmambetov did a little for Nightwatch to rescue it from total oblivion, but I still don’t get why Kalogridis still gets jobs.
Everything is completely overdone, so much so that this thriller actually had people laughing when they should have been terrified or intrigued. The cinematography is good but nothing to brag about. I’d say it gets the job done, but compare this film to the cinematography in The Shining and Zodiac, or even Public Enemies, and you will see exactly what I mean.
Scorsese reminds me of the writer who tries to prove that he’s a writer: everything is adverbs and modifiers, no good verbs. There are so many atmospherics that you lose the point of the story. Apply that to directing, and you get my point.
I have to give it to the cast. DiCaprio doesn’t suck as much as I expected. Max von Sydow and Ben Kingsley are worth watching, even if their lines are completely nonsensical. I think it takes talent to read a shitty line and make it sound halfway plausible, and both of these actors have that excellent talent. Michelle Williams, on the other hand, could have had 90% of her scenes cut and I wouldn’t have cared. She brings nothing to this film except some poorly delivered bitchy lines. Patricia Clarkson, Emily Mortimer, Elias Koteas, and especially John Carroll Lynch are wasted in this production. If you watch Zodiac, John Carroll Lynch is fucking terrifying. Here, he just looks like a fucking annoying teddy bear. Place him in the scene, watch him look awkward. As for Koteas – I think he’s outlived his “creepy guy” typecasting. Now he’s just that guy that we instantly recognize as being creepy. He’s not really acting, he’s just playing himself playing the creepy guy.
For some reason, Mark Ruffalo was also completely disposable. In general, I felt nothing for any of the characters.
I kept hoping that the ending would be interesting, but it was just another cliché. I do believe that DiCaprio made the best of it though. He actually made me feel something in one of the scenes, which was surprising. Too bad it took two hours to get to that scene.
There’s some absurd shit in this film: two days after a hurricane blows trees all over the place, the hospital looks as if nothing happened. DiCaprio manages to scale a two hundred foot cliff in fifteen seconds. Scorsese shows Holocaust victims, then replays the scene, replacing one particular victim with a woman (who is not even Jewish and completely unrelated to the scene) who comes alive. Only one word for that last one: tacky.
And, if you haven’t been completely turned off or bored by what happens or doesn’t happen in the film, how about some historical accuracy? When Scorsese shows American GIs liberating Dachau (that’s in Germany, people) during another irrelevant backstory scene, the sign on top of the gate, the sign we all know and abhor, says “Arbeit macht frei” – “Work sets you free.” Do you know what’s wrong with that picture?
That sign is from Auschwitz, which is in Poland.
I actually had a good time with Hang, though. Thanks Hang!