I was fortunate to see Shutter Island on Saturday night. It almost didn’t happen as we celebrated Henry’s birthday with family that day and he was amped up beyond measure. Believe me, after hosting both sides of your family and catering to a sugar-powered 3 year-old who doesn’t want to take a nap… you don’t want to do anything.
But I knew if I didn’t see Shutter Island on Saturday night, I wasn’t going to see it at all. So, droopy-eyed and exhausted, I went. It didn’t disappoint.
There isn’t a lot I can say about Shutter Island without spoiling the details. But I have read a few reviews and the fan reaction online and I have to say I don’t understand where some of the critics are coming from.
Some have complained that the ending is too predictable or that Martin Scorsese has given in to his inner M. Night Shamalyan. These people, I think, have missed the point.
Yes, Shutter Island is rife with twists, turns and red herrings. But the point is not to figure out “the twist.” The point is that Scorsese is leading you down a rabbit hole. He’s trying to make YOU feel crazy. He does a good job of it, too. Thundering orchestral notes in the score communicate a foreboding, paranoid mood almost instantly. Scorsese directs the pants off this thing.
People looking for the twist are only doing so because they want to feel smarter than the movie. And when the ending is revealed not to be as potent a brain-scrambler as they had anticipated, they claim the rest of the film to be faulty.
I will admit that I spent a good part of the second act trying to to stay a step ahead of the movie. I kept anticipating something dramatic would happen to Mark Ruffalo’s character and convinced myself there was some significance to the Band-Aid Leonard DiCaprio’s character wears on his forehead for the majority of the film.
Ultimately, these details don’t matter. But the film makes you question if they are. This is what I mean when I say Scorsese is trying to give you the feeling of insanity. You examine the details, your mind loops over the facts again and again. You can never really trust what you’re seeing, but you feel self-righteous in your focus and concentration.
As New York Times critic A.O. Scott puts it in his review, “Mr. Scorsese in effect forces you to study the threads on the rug he is preparing, with lugubrious deliberateness, to pull out from under you.”
Unfortunately, Mr. Scott saw this as a negative. He panned the film as he continued “As the final revelations approach, the stakes diminish precipitously, and the sense that the whole movie has been a strained and pointless contrivance starts to take hold.”
What A.O. Scott found to be a strained and pointless contrivance, I found to be an expertly executed trip down the darkened mineshaft of one man’s deteriorating mental state.
There are one or two conclusions to draw from this. Either I am an extremely simple man who requires uncomplicated entertainment or critics like A.O. Scott are off-base in their assumption that Scorsese needs to be tackling more “serious” material.
Could there be a little hero worship mixed in with my support for Shutter Island? Sure. I think the last few comics here on the site have revealed that.
But is there also the potential for critics like A.O. Scott to trying and buff some of the shine of Scorsese’s career to counteract the esteem he’s been given in his career? Absolutely.
Even if you don’t like the film, I think there has to be something wrong with you to give it an outright pan. Shutter Island is not a case of lost potential and there are certainly worse ways to spend 2 hours in a movie theater.
That sounds like faint praise. But the point is, compared to what is usually in theaters this time of year, Shutter Island is like a sumptuous feast to a starving man. I think curious, respectful film fans owe it to themselves to see it – if for no other reason than to watch Scorsese do what he does best.
Did you see Shutter Island this weekend? If so, what did you think? Leave your comments below!
No you didn't...
You saw Valentine's Day for the third time.
Also, you're not really talking to me right now.
You're talking to a stop sign.