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(shudder) ‘Island’


Let’s get this clear:  I judge much more severely if one has a track record of better performances.  Like a teacher that gives you a ‘C’ on a half-assed paper that was still better than everything the mouth-breathers around you pounded out, based solely on the logic ‘more is expected of you’.        

Guess what Martin Scorcese and Leo DiCaprio?  You both made the list.  And so we take a boat ride to Shutter Island.       

Based on a book by Dennis Lehane (who has a decent track record both in ‘book writing’ and ‘agreeing to let certain people make his long books in to much-more-abbreviated movies’, I have this to say:  if the actual book is anything like this movie turned out, Lehane needs to not drink bottles of whiskey continuously when composing future tomes.   

What seemed like a great idea – a 50s era ‘missing person’ mystery on an island that houses an insane asylum really doesn’t go anywhere.  Possibly because this story is doled out less as ‘a fluid story’ than it is ‘an unending series of character introductions featuring characters that are never seen again’.   

And I’m not kidding here.  Outside of Leo’s detective Teddy Daniels, his partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) and head island shrink Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley), there’s just character after character who comes in with a bang, gets one scene, and completely disappears, save for some referencing.  Except for Max Von Sydow,  he gets two scenes, so we, the viewing public, can try to unravel whether he’s a baseless inhumane former-Nazi psychiatrist with leanings towards experiments on patients, or just a regular baseless inhumane psychiatrist with leanings towards experiments on patients.       

This is the scariest thing in Shutter Island. Stare at it for five minutes and you will achieve a much more potent effect, and save yourself two hours.


 Other than that, its entry-and-exit for a cavalcade of folks who really could have offered a lot more in this:  Jackie Earle Haley, Emily Mortimer, Ted Levine, Patricia Clarkson.  All in all, it’s just ridiculously linear, which maybe surprises me more because it’s Scorcese.        

No, it definitely surprises me more because it’s Scorcese.  I guess there’s a valid reason why he tends to stick to mob-based storytelling; it’s what he’s good at now.  What it turns out he’s not so good at?  Suspenseful storytelling with ‘surprise endings’.  M. Night Shyamalan himself must have laughed at how poorly the ‘twist’ in here was hidden.       

There’s some positives here:  the setting, costumes and scenery are great, the shot selection gorgeous – but those are expected from Scorcese.  Leonardo does a good enough job with a character whose past-life flashbacks are overdone and too revealing, but not due to poor performance.  A picture can only be so pretty in an ugly and ill-fitting frame.       

Mmm....Moon Pie...


 In fact, I take back my negative words towards DiCaprio: he makes a great effort in this, it’s failure is not his fault. Despite wanting to dislike the guy for years, I have to concede he is a hell of a good actor, one of the best of the generation.  I feel sorry for him.  Maybe not so much because of Shutter Island, but because pretty soon his inability to look older than 19 is going to spell the death of this career.  Johnny Depp grows older and looks more handsome and wizened with age; Leo gets older, and looks more and more like a human Moon Pie.       

So if this were just some low-budget attempt at scary from a bunch of no-names that I dug out of the wasteland of Netflix, I might be more forgiving.  But it’s not, so I’m not.  3 out of 7.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. 2010/06/16 12:15 am

    Mercy !!! I thought it was pretty good… Atmospheric and all that where it needed to be. LOL ! Babyface DiCaprio can always get a job
    in the “Twilight” series…

    I will disagree a little, but a great review nonetheless 🙂

  2. jen permalink
    2010/06/16 7:02 pm

    i agree with daniel on it being pretty good… i loved it! you are way off base on this on matty p… though i agree about the cameos… i love jackie earl haley and thought he didn’t get enough time at all (and he was typecast again as the freak while he is an excellent actor!)

    did like your shamalamalan comment… his new movie looks terrible.

    and leo still has the looks…

    there, i am finished.

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