I think that Shutter Island was a masterpiece by Martin Scorsese. For me, the film was compelling to watch because it contains topnotch performances and excellent direction. The setting of the narration was also perfect in that it created the suspense and tension needed to compliment the film genre. The actors themselves did justice to their roles, and Scorsese leveraged his directorship to get the best out of the actors in the movie. The camera work and lighting of the scenes went perfectly in hand with the general mood of the movie. The editing and cutting continuity of the film also made the film a delightful watch. Ultimately, the film also addressed many socio-cultural issues that have dogged our society through cinematography, narrative development, and character performance, hence making it solid piece of work.
It would be a waste of my time to critique the directorship of Martin Scorsese when the film itself was a true representation of his ability and creativity. Without Scorsese, the entirety of the film would be lacking celebrity and production value because he was the one being credited for making the film available for viewership. The mise–en-scene, the performance, and the composition of setting, cinematography, and subjects within the film were made available under Scorsese’s administration. Hence, this film review will be of more value if I critique the performance of the actors instead.
By just taking a glimpse of the cast, the word “quality” literally slipped out of my mouth. It is undisputable that Leonardo DiCaprio is an able actor, whose work in Shutter Island (2010) was as phenomenal as the movie itself. In order to portray the mentally unstable Teddy Daniels in the most genuine way, DiCaprio assumed the role of a method actor to make that a reality in the film. This was seen in the film when Daniels activated his aggressive and scowling mode towards other characters within the narrative. The constant displays of compulsion and aggression acted out by DiCaprio helped to fully develop the psychotic background of Teddy Daniel who suffered from PTSD. Mark Ruffalo, who played Chuck Aule and Dr. Sheenan in the film, is another veteran in the film industry. Like DiCaprio, Ruffalo showcased his talents within the film as he played a character with two distinct identities and personalities. His portrayal of Aule is so good in the film it never occurred to me that the character has another identity. Most importantly, DiCaprio and Ruffalo complemented each other so well within the film that it would likely hit many dumbfounded when they find out that Daniels and Aule were not U.S. Marshalls but were patient and doctor, respectively. Ben Kingsley’s performance as Dr. Cawley is also golden in that he characterized all the stereotypical descriptions of a psychiatrist. Throughout the film, Ben portrayed Dr. Cawley as proud and smart, but difficult. This can be seen when Dr. Cawley used his intelligence to remind Chuck of his real identity and avoid interrogation from Teddy.
Just as how character development added to the overall greatness of Shutter Island (2010), the setting and theatrical properties used throughout the film complimented the development of the narrative. In my opinion, filming the movie on an island that is detached from society highlights the following themes: mental illness and psychiatric care. Generally speaking, the public tends to distance itself from anything related to insanity because people have a skewed view about the dangers of mentally ill people. Thus by setting the filming locations far away from civilization, this added to the segregation between the mentally sane and the psychologically ill. The mise–en-scene of the boat during the beginning of the film helped to symbolize insanity as well since the rocking effect of the boat conveyed the character’s unstable demeanor. Finally, the use of prosthetics also complimented the thriller mood of the film because they helped to set a mysterious, dark tone to the movie. A great example of prosthetics usage is shown through the eerie-looking lady at the beginning of the film. Other theatrical properties were used to compliment the setting, for example the white coats worn by the staff at the institution and the weapons carried by the security force and U.S. Marshalls—Teddy and Chuck.
Based on my opinion of the film, I believe the incorporation of lighting, sound, camera technique, and editing style by Scorsese and his production crew were iconic. Not only did these strategies enhance the cinematography qualities of the film, but they also complemented the significances of each other. In order to fulfill his purpose of creating a psychological neo-noir film, Scorsese uses low-key and shadowy lighting within shots to create suspense and curiosity. This was key because, without these lighting techniques, the film would lose both its intensity and thriller effects in keeping the audience in anticipation. The use of sound within the film also highlighted the situation of the setting and thus created a better visual presentation of the subjects for the audience. In certain scenes, Scorsese used music that contained bass to mimic human heartbeats, which in turn, intensified the tense atmosphere and influenced audiences’ emotion. Another technique used in the film which highlighted the success of Shutter Island (2010) was the various camera techniques. Scorsese and his cinematographer used camera angles to enhance the effect of the film, move the plot along, and communicate symbolism. For example, the establishing shot of the boat emerging from the fog gave the film a mysterious genre. The close-up shot of Teddy and Chuck on the unsteady boat allowed the audience to sympathize on an emotional level with the characters because they knew how uncomfortable seasickness could be. The extreme close up shots of the handcuff and the marshal badge helped insinuate that Teddy and Chuck may have been connected to law enforcement. Finally, the brilliance of the film was also made possible by the editor who used different paces of the cuts in transition between scenes to maintain continuity while helping with production value.
The most important thing about a movie to me is its content. I prefer movies that either bring to the table something of value or address societal issues that have dogged our communities on a daily basis. Since Shutter Island (2010) addressed many cultural and social issues regarding humanity and morale in the past, present, and future, I believe that it was a solid film. One of the main socio-cultural impacts that the film dealt with is the birth of psychiatric experiments and the horrific events of World War II in 1954. Examples of this were seen in the film when Teddy was having constant flashbacks of the gruesome warfare events which had taken place in his past. These experiences also took a toll on his mental health as the pent-up guilt within him took a toll on his sanity. Another important issue that the film shed light on is the stereotype that the general public have on asylums. Scorsese and his crew depicted psychiatrists and doctors that worked on Shutter Island as reasonable men with good intentions. This is contrary to the stereotypical view that society has on the mad doctors who performed (as Teddy Daniel’s initially believes) ice pick transorbital lobotomies on patients to make them docile and manageable. Ultimately, what Scorsese was trying to do with his film was to paint a picture of how horrifying the effects of trauma can be on a human and that people should not be afraid to seek help when it concerns their sanity, nor should these mentally afflicted patients be treated as scum in the world. To highlight this, he showed a shot at the beginning of the film that quoted the saying “Remember us for we too have lived, loved, and laughed.”
Though I am no professional film critique and my analysis may come off as amateurish to those of the experts within the field, I believe that it is only fair to give the director credit for his work based on his eminent directions in guiding the development of the film. After all, the uses of compositions, cinematography, and production setting were also perfectly incorporated by Martin Scorsese to help create the marvelous work. Ultimately, the entire plot is well thought out and it was captured so that the most important aspects of the film’s content were made visible to the general public—mental illness and psychiatric care.