When you think of an insane asylum, two distinct images come to mind. The first is that calm bucolic country estate where people go for the weekend to deal with a mild anxiety disorder. There are manicured grounds and plinky music. The muscular orderlies are there only for your protection. Then there’s the other image: the antiquated bedlam filled with torture devices, dripping walls and filthy, scabby patients roaming the halls mumbling. The sadistic director is as much experimenting on the forgotten as he is treating them…welcome to Shutter Island.
Our story begins as two federal marshals, Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo), are headed out from Boston Harbor to the facility for the criminally insane to investigate the disappearance of a patient. The two men find the people in charge, including facility chief Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley), his Mengele-esque associate Dr. Naehring (Max Von Sydow) and the eerie warden (Ted Levine) less than cooperative. As they continue to investigate, Teddy and Chuck begin to suspect that something else entirely is going on at the facility. Teddy starts to believe he may have been lured there to halt his investigation into the disappearance of the arsonist responsible for the death of his wife, Delores (Michelle Williams).
Clearly, there is a lot going on here. And while there are many things I loved about the movie, the things I didn’t like are impossible to discuss without being a spoiler. Suffice it to say that the story is clever, suspenseful and thoughtful. One problem is that the imagery and the score can be so stereotypical they stray toward the comical—the Mel Brooks spoof High Anxiety came to mind on more than one occasion. Nevertheless, Scorsese is a masterful filmmaker and his over-stylization is not without reason. I have to say I was thoroughly entertained.