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Shutter Island: Scary and Sentimental


Known mostly for his crime dramas, director Martin Scorsese surprised and awed his fans when he made the 2010 psychological drama Shutter Island. It has been almost a decade since the release of the Leonardo DiCaprio starrer, but the feature still stands as a testament to the prowess of Scorsese.

Right from the writing (Laeta Kalogridis) to other departments such as cinematography and music, Shutter Island remains one of the top Hollywood thrillers.

The plot is far from simple and cannot be told without revealing at least a couple of crucial spoilers. The important thing to note here is that Shutter Island , despite being a psychological drama, borrows heavily from different genres, whilst paying homage to them. While the film is a thriller, it also sometimes works like a psychological horror. Especially when Leonardo Di Caprio crosses paths with the inmates of the hospital.

Leonardo and Mark Ruffalo play US Marshals who are pulled to a marooned island to investigate the missing inmate Rachel, who drowned her three children. But as the movie progresses, we discover that nothing is as it seems. Leonardo is US Marshal Edward Teddy Daniels but he is also the man who killed his wife Dolores aka Rachel (Michelle Williams). The whole operation ‘Save Rachel’ was in the end a plan by the psychiatric ward to see how far their most dangerous patient Andrew Laeddis had progressed. In the end, we see that Andrew aka Daniel (Leonardo) plays the delusional card so that he could die an honourable death. After all, no one wants to be remembered as their wife’s murderer.

It was a tough role for Leonardo, as his part required him to be hysterical as well as a man in control of his emotions and intellect. Leo delivers a performance for the ages, treading the diametrically opposite paths of Andrew and Edward Teddy Daniels.

Ben Kingsley as the ward head Dr John Cawley was marvellous. What is perhaps great about the story (and the credit entirely goes to the writer) is that not just the lead star, but everyone who had some screen time, had a lot on their plates to deal with. They were struggling with multiple layers and dimensions. One, as they were being perceived by the protagonist, the other, as they truly were.

For instance, Kingsley’s character could, at one glance, be considered someone who is dark and sinister. But as the narrative moves forward, it becomes clear that this is not the case. In fact, as someone dealing with mentally disturbed people on a regular basis, he had enormous love for them. And this very love is evident in one of the final scenes of the film when it is conveyed to Cawley that Andrew’s status had relapsed.

Shutter Island explores the themes of love, grief and mental illness and does so in an entirely riveting fashion. As a viewer, you are at the edge of your seat and as lost as the hero, but you are also exhausted having experienced a variety of emotions through the course of the film. Satiated and full to the brim, that is how I felt after watching the Martin Scorsese directorial. Definitely worth a revisit.

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