It’s 1954. In post-World War II America, few have forgotten the atrocities done to Europe’s Jewish population by Nazis.
Leonardo DiCaprio is U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels who, as a soldier, was at one of the death camps. He’s haunted by the memory and of the death of his beloved wife a couple of years later.
This is tied to Shutter Island, an institution for the criminally insane. A dangerous woman has escaped, and Daniels is assigned to find out why and to find her. Ben Kingsley is the psychiatrist in charge. He has an agenda, and it isn’t to help Daniels solve the mystery.
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Daniels’ real reason for wanting the assignment is to shut the place down. He thinks the psychiatrist and his associates are doing the same types of unconscionable experiments the Nazis did.
The mystery of the doctor’s reluctance and the woman’s disappearance leads to deeper mysteries, and the deeper Daniels gets into Shutter Island, the more confusing his reality becomes. Whom to trust? Who is lying, and who isn’t?
Our experience with Daniels is the same. Confusing. The pretzeled plot eventually straightens out but Martin Scorsese — doing his first feature film since the Oscar-winning The Departed — takes too much time telling novelist Dennis Lehane’s (Mystic River) story.
And explanations and details that help in a novel aren’t found in Scorsese’s movie.
Parts are padded for effect. Camera angles are designed for deception.
Walks down long, dank corridors are accompanied by lights that flicker then fail. Character movements are accompanied by instant whooshes, clunks and clanks. After 90 minutes, you’re ready to move on.
Given another day and more time, this review might be different. There is much to like about Scorsese’s film. DiCaprio — appearing now in the past four Scorsese movies — is a superb actor. His able-bodied supporting cast is excellent: Mark Ruffalo, Max von Sydow and Michelle Williams have bigger parts. Jackie Earle Haley, Emily Mortimer and Patricia Clarkson and others shine in smaller ones.
All are helped by the always exceptional Kingsley, who in spite of the dark drama, adds just a slight spark of much needed humor and some life to a lifeless plot.
Some movies stick with you. You’re not sure you like them, but they won’t let go. Shutter Island is like that. I really need more time to roll it around the brain before I can definitively recommend — or not.
Today, it’s a not.
Mr. Movie rating: 3 stars
Rated R for mature themes, language, violence. It opens Friday, Feb. 19 at Regal’s Columbia Mall 8 and at the Fairchild Cinemas 12.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.