Scorsese Scares, Scores

It’s post-WWII and as vets across the country massage their scar tissue, U.S. marshal Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) is ferreted to an alcatraz-esdque island off the coast of Massachusetts to locate the whereabouts of escaped patient-murderer (Emily Mortimer). Partnered with the ever-reverent Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo), Daniels embarks on investigation into the bowels of Ashecliffe penitentiary. But he also has a secondary motive: to find the man who murdered his wife (Michelle Williams) and disappeared on Shutter Island.

Aptly nightmarish, writer Laeta Kalogridis’ adaptation of Dennis Lehane’s novel throws plot twist after plot twist into a film glittering with cinematography. And literature buffs will appreciate the ample foreshadowing subtly littered throughout the film. Like the psychiatric treatments practiced on the island, the film is boldly unconventional and never fails to shock.

Slow to start, “Shutter Island”’s brutal opening scene eviscerates introduction niceties, leaving a noticeably ill-fit melodramatic score in its wake. The script is quick to recover though, as director Martin Scorsese’s skill shines through the dementia, when Daniels realizes that there is something peculiar occurring behind the iron-laden walls of Aschecliffe. Repeatedly thwarted by ever-present head-shrink Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley), Daniel’s lucidity falls to pieces faster than the hurricane-striken island that surrounds him.

Heavyweight DiCaprio once again earns his acting stripes as the hyper-paranoid Daniels, demonstrating a range of emotional complexity that keeps us trembling with aftershocks long after the credits have rolled. Not to be outshone, Ruffalo and Kingsley also keep the blood pumping in their supporting roles.

Demonstrating a thorough knowledge of Donnie Darko-type absurdity, “Island’s” graphics team drenches their actors in gallons of rain water, burns them alive and showers them with petals. The gruesome and ghoulish is coupled with the ethereal and romantic in elaborate dream sequences, blurring the lines between sanity and madness. The violence and death, typified by horrific flashbacks to frozen piles of Holocaust corpses, while discomforting, is never exaggerated to the level of horror movie gore.

Although “Island”’s success comes as no surprise due to past hits “The Aviator” and “The Departed” (also DiCaprio/Scorsese works), the film has much more to it than the trailers suggest. Like in any good Scorsese film, be ready to consume a heap of sociopathic characters, a monster of a plot twist and a sizable helping of East Coast drawl. Just be sure to check your sanity at the door.