Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Why are you wet, baby?

  Leonardo DiCaprio... boy, I used to hate that man. Probably the byproduct of jelaousy (if I wanted to be a blonde white boy), or perhaps it was that I was convinced he was going to be a passing fad, like many teenage actors before him. But man, did he prove me wrong. It wasn't shortly after Titanic that I started noticing his pedigree. I realized that I had pegged him wrong and because of that I could finally enjoy his movies without any agonizing guilt: Gangs of New York, The Aviator, The Departed, and most recently Shutter Island; the last, in what seems to be, a successful streak of Martin Scorsese/DiCaprio cinematic gems. So let's get into it, today is SHR's (SPOILER FREE) review of Shutter Island.

Looks like the perfect summer getaway...

  Based on the 2003 Dennis Lehane novel of the same name, Shutter Island tells the story of Federal Marshall Edward "Teddy" Daniels (DiCaprio) who, along with his new partner Chuck (Mark Ruffalo, who is going to be the new Hulk... just fyi) are sent to the eponymous island to to investigate the disappearance of an inmate by the named of Rachel Solando. The reason for the marshal's involvement is due to the fact that head psychiatrist, Dr. John Cawley (the ever fun Ben Kingsley) claims she disappeared from her cell. So looks like a potentially inviting mystery after all. What follows is Teddy and Chuck's investigation about the whereabouts of the woman and the potential conspiracy involving the medical staff of Shutter Island and its patients. We also get a glimpse at Teddy's sordid past as a World War II vet (the film is set in 1954) and his shady past as a married man. At the expense of not spoiling the movie (if you read the book then you know how it goes) I'll just cover the basics and the performances by all involved. Not to mention Martin Scorsese's excellent use of dynamic angles and creative lightning for dream/mind sequences. 

 The story begins to unravel in one of those "there is more to this than what we know" but suffice it so say all the buildup (and there's quite a bit of that) doesn't fall short. If anything, Shutter Island is one of those FEW movies that works better on the second viewing. You're so busy the first time around trying to figure just what exactly IS going on in the Ashecliffe Hospital for the Criminally Insane that you miss out on some really good details and acting. First of all my tip of the hat to Mr. DiCaprio, who literally carries the movie on his lone shoulders. That's not to say that Mark Ruffalo and Ben Kingsley, along with a VERY underused Max von Sydow, don't do well or anything; but this IS DiCaprio's movie. Every shot, every important sequence, every single piece of film is dedicated to him and he commands the screen; a far cry from his pretty boy persona from the early 2000s.

Best. Cruise. Ever.

  I have to mention three things that bugged me about the cast though. One is Michelle Williams as DiCaprio's wife, something about the way she carried herself just felt a bit week. I know she was playing a "different" person but that still didn't seem like the problem. Ben Kingsley was great as the doctor, but there's two scenes where his lines seem more comical than serious (probably on purpose); "Why are you wet, baby?" indeed. Then there's the cameos by Elias Koteas and Jackie Earle Haley, while they were GREAT in what little time they were on screen I can't help but think that maybe they should've been cast as major players in the movie as opposed to five minute flashes. I understand it's based on a book and all, but I feel like it may have been a missed opportunity is all. The rest of the cast is well rounded with the always creepy Ted Levine as the Warden and John Carroll Lynch (in a far cry from his cross-dressing "The Drew Carey Show" days) as  Deputy Warden McPherson.

  All in all a great movie with a solid cast and performances, great atmosphere, music and a source that gives the movie plenty of scenery to chew with. And while it may not be Martin Scorsese and Leo's best collaboration (The Departed and Gangs of New York can fight it out for that honor), it's still a solid movie that should be viewed by anyone with a taste for psychological thriller/mystery. Not to mention anyone who likes movies that are even BETTER the second time around , a rarity these days I'd say.

"The invitation said 'dress casually,' jackass!"

Sorry for making it short guys, I'll make up for it on the Sunday Column (One Piece's Top 10 Saddest Moments and Episode Review).


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