Shutter Island ***

February 19, 2010 by J-Wire
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Spoiler Alert: Although every effort has been made to limit the revelations in this review, it’s difficult to provide a coherent discussion of Shutter Island without giving away something, so readers are hereby placed on alert. If you’re familiar with the book, however, there’s no reason to stop here…

What’s wrong with Shutter Island? This has been the question ever since Paramount Pictures elected to move the Martin Scorsese-directed thriller from its comfortable pre-Oscar position to the wastelands of February. It turns out that there’s nothing wrong with Shutter Island – except perhaps that it’s not Oscar worthy material. An atmospheric mind-twister of a thriller, this movie delights in playing games with the audience’s perceptions and has been crafted with such competence that it rises above the somewhat generic storyline that forms the basis of Dennis Lehane’s novel. The strength of the film, like the book, is that it never allows the viewer to feel comfortable with what he is watching. That’s because Shutter Island is presented from the perspective of an unreliable narrator and, as such, the lines between fantasy and reality sometimes blur so strongly that it’s easy to become unanchored in trying to distinguish between what’s real and what isn’t. A case can be made that the movie is so enamored with this aspect of its approach that it fails to connect on an emotional level. Shutter Island addresses some powerful, disturbing concepts but, despite effective performances by the leads, the movie’s psychological impact is minimal. It doesn’t pack the powerhouse punch one has come to expect from Scorsese. Still, the director’s consummate skill has lifted what might otherwise be a middling endeavor into something compellingly watchable. It’s another Cape Fear.

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