Directed by Martin Scorcese (Hugo (2011), I Call First (1967)).
Written by Laeta Kalogridis (Pathfinder (2007), Alexander (2004)).
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Max von Sydow, Jackie Earle Haley, Michelle Williams, Elias Koteas, Patricia Clarkson and others.
We start with Mark Ruffalo and Leonardo DiCaprio on a ship. They are obviously in front of a green screen, an effect used more than once in the movie. But it actually works, because it invokes the feeling of rear projection, which looks both fake and charming.
Another aspect that plays into the 40’s thriller mood is the awesome score, compiled from various modern classical musical pieces, that are really kind of over-the-top and used in a very tongue-in-cheek way. These are all basically gimmicks, but I don’t mind it, because they’re not spoofing Golden Age Hollywood, they’re creating the atmosphere those movies bring.
I don’t really remember when was the last time I saw cinematography this amazing and beautiful in a horror/thriller picture, The Shining comes to mind, that was a long time ago. To be fair, both The Shining and this are quite the high-budget productions. Shutter Island is essentialy a B-movie on an A-budget. But the money put aside, this is obviously the work of a master filmmaker, who knows how to make a movie just „flow”.
The acting is also great, Ruffalo in the few last years has done some really solid work and this is one of those times, DiCaprio is as always solid, Ben Kingsley, who has a habit of appearing in not-so-great movies as a generic villain, actually is great here, maybe the best performance in the movie.
So Ruffalo and Di Caprio are detectives sent to an asylum to investigate a disappearance of a patient and as the investigation goes on, less and less becomes clear. DiCaprio’s state of mind also becomes less certain. He has creepy dreams, which have some cool and weird imagery.
The movie has its problems, though. Around the middle, the movie starts becoming a bit too chaotic and muddled. The biggest problem might be that the movie is quite predictable, we’ve seen this story done before, but this is the best version of it. It’s done so masterfully, that you’re more interested in the execution of the story, the way the build-up is constructed, than its rather obvious conclusion. So if you watched the trailer and thought „I know exactly what’s going to happen,” give it a try anyway, the ride is more enjoyable than just waiting for the destination.
Since it feels so much like a late 40’s film noir, I almost wish that it was shot in soft black & white, but on the other hand, the cinematography is so colorful and beautiful, you don’t want to take that away from this movie. I have to mention that among other great shots, there’s an amazing tracking shot, I won’t reveal what exactly that is, because it would be a spoiler, but the great thing about it is, that it’s not just a technical showcase, it actually works to the movie’s dramatic benefit.
Overall, a great thriller, might be more eye-candy and less an interesting and intricate plot, but for me it didn’t matter. Recommended .