It's easy to see why Shutter Island got bumped from Oscar season. Not because its bad or anything, but its a film very much of its genre, very Hitchcockian in its fusion of thrills and psychosis. Nothing profoundly new or innovative is done, but its an accomplished, confidently told movie that always hold your attention. And if the last act feels a little too familiar, at least it was done in a way that didn't induce groaning, as the case can so often be with this kind of film But its nice to see a thriller so old-fashioned in design yet not dated by its sense of nostalgia.
The plot sees US Marshall Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) arrive on an offshore island used as a mental institution for the craziest of patients, and of course one of them has gone missing. So he and partner Mark Ruffalo set about into the investigation and of course shit goes off the hook. Its the kind of movie that both benefits and loses out on having the Scorsese name attached. On one hand without his prestige, a pot-boiling thriller like this wouldn't have drawn the recognition and exceptional cast that it did but on the other this is Scorcese, the man who made Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, making a thriller that serves no purpose other than skeeve you out, and even if it does that well, why is this dude making it. Its a little unfair, but you know everyone with more then a passing interesting film is going to be thinking the same thing. Its our problem, but enough of us have it, it becomes the film's problem.
That aside, I have no real complaints about Shutter Island, it does what it does like a pro, its thrilling, creepy and insightful al when it needs to be and its more entertaining and smarter then most of its genre kin and contains a strong performance by Leonardo DiCaprio at its center, who brings, as he always does, a forceful intelligence complimented by real humanity. The best actors are always the smartest ones because they understand the emotion rather then just recite it. And you can always tell that. The rest of the cast all gets its moment, and Ben Kingsley, Ruffalo, Emily Mortimer and in particular Michelle Williams lend great support, and that's to name but half of the A list talent this movie has at its disposable.
Shutter Island is like a Brian DePalma movie with a greater sense of subtelty and a strong as balls cast, but the problems of familiarity and imitation never quite go away. This is hired hand Scorcese, no doubt, but he's possibly the greatest film-maker of all time for a reason, and even when he makes a movie for the paycheck, we the audience can still get something out of it.