Engineernerd’s Review of Shutter Island

March 5, 2010 | By More

Mrs. Nerd  and I did a surprising thing last week. We actually went to the theater to see a movie. It’s not that we don’t like going to the theater. It just seems like we always have a full DVR and a stack of DVD’s at home to watch. And watching a movie at home in sweatpants with an, ahem, adult beverage and ice cream is just darn comfortable.

We both like scary movies, and “Shutter Island” was the closest thing playing at our nearby Regal Cinema.  We’d seen the trailers, which portray the film has having some freaky or supernatural type content. Good enough for us. We actually earned enough points with this visit for a free ticket, so we’ll be going back soon. They were out of Frozen Coke and I ended up getting a large Blue Squishee and bag of Twizzlers and we off to our seats.

First a little on why this film appealed to me. I really like old movies. While I love vintage Sci-Fi and horror films, I have a penchant for film noir detective stories. Phillip Marlowe, Sam Spade, and the rest of their kind have a hold on me. Much like Jean-Luc Picard, if I could have a holodeck adventure, it would be as a hard boiled detective with a flask of whiskey in one pocket, a .38 in the other and hat that would never come off. I’d call the waitress at the diner “doll”, and I’d always have a pithy reply ready for the bad guy.

That’s what I loved about this film. Leonardo DiCaprio portrays that kind of detective in this film. While set in the 50’s, which is a little later era, he’s got all the ear marks of the detective that’s been beat down by the world. He’s got stubble on his face and looks to be exhausted mentally for most of the film. I have to say that DiCaprio’s performance in this film took me aback a bit. It was role I wouldn’t have expected him to excel in, yet this is probably my favorite thing I’ve ever seen him in.

The second thing I loved about this film was the look and feel. The film is set at an asylum for criminally insane that is located on an island near Boston that is only accessible by boat. Much like a Hitchcock film, this limits the locales down for a justifiable reason. Also, it sets up an unusual set of circumstances for the film. The witnesses are unreliable, because they are insane. The doctors are cutting edge 1950’s psychoanalysts dabbling in better chemistry for modern living.

There’s one thing that I really enjoyed that I wish there was more of in this film, and that’s Jackie Earle Haley. Springing up everywhere these days, he’s perfecting the niche of psychotic in most of his recent roles. His role in this film is small, but memorable.

Now for the things that I thought were a little less than perfect. The first is only a slight issue because I really think there is a different reason for it being there. The film introduces DiCaprio’s character on a boat being sea sick. He than goes on to state that he doesn’t like the water.While a clever nod at “Titanic”, it seems a little too obvious (at first).

Like any other psycho-drama these days, this film has a bit of twist. I had about  half of the twist figured out about a third of the way into the film. The twist is clever enough, but it depends on you getting sucked into the story line enough to avoid picking up on it.

The ending of the film also wasn’t quite as satisfying as I would have liked. In the interest of keeping this fairly spoiler free, I’m just going to say that there’s one thread I would have like to have seen resolved a little more fully. Much like real life the film just doesn’t quite tie up all the loose ends.

A nice surprise in this film was seeing Max Von Sydow. He plays a doctor experimenting with drugs on mental patients. Wait, we’ve seen him do that before in “Strange Brew.” You know the Bob & Doug McKenzie movie, eh? While playing the straight man to Bob & Doug was done for laughs, this role he exudes a nice bit of sinister.

“Shutter Island” shares a quality with a number of my favorite Hitchcock films. The film is more about the journey than the end result. And the journey is good one. The scenery, action, and characters are all woven in a vintage film style that we don’t see much of these days. Yes, I saw part of the twist coming, but I didn’t mind one bit. Just like a roller coaster where you can see the hills coming, the film provides a satisfying ride.

One last bit of advice. A large blue frozen beverage at the theater will totally turn your lips and tongue blue. Remember that if you are going to dinner after the film.

Engineernerd gives this film 8.5 slushees out of 10

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