Complete A-Z list

Shutter Island


Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Max Von Sydow, Michelle Williams, Emily Mortimer, Patricia Clarkson. Jackie Earle Haley, John Carroll Lynch, Elias Koteas, Ted Levine

Director: Martin Scorsese

Two FBI agents arrive on stormswept Shutter Island to investigate the disappearance of a patient, Rachel Sorondo, at the island's fortress-like lunatic asylum (we can call it that since this is 1954). Agent Teddy Daniels (DiCaprio), haunted both by visions of his dead wife (Williams) and the liberation of Dachau, finds the chief medical officer (Kingsley) and his staff only barely cooperative. He and his sidekick (Ruffalo) seem to get trapped in stories as labyrinthine as the psychiatric hospital itself. Meanwhile, a raging hurricane prevents them leaving the island.

Fans of horror thrillers will immediately guess that DiCaprio or Ruffalo or Kingsley and his staff are really inmates. But what is the idea of the game one side is playing?

Director Scorsese, off form for once in his great career, is not interested in accomplishing anything quickly here and, like DiCaprio, you may run out of patience fairly soon. No one is upfront with him. The missing woman leaves a message that reads: 'The law of 4. Who is 67?' Another patient simply scrawls 'RUN' at the foot of his notes. Meanwhile Kingsley describes his practices as 'a moral fusion between law and order and clinical care'.

It's almost impossible to write about the deficiencies of this movie without going further in to the workings of its plot. However, the sum total of a claustrophobic but quite simply constructed thriller is much less than the sum of its parts, much as the music tries to underline the grand Guignol qualities of it all.

David Quinlan

USA 2009. UK Distributor: Paramount. Colour by deluxe.
131 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 06 Mar 2010